Obedience, Orthodoxy, and Torture

People are worried about me. One reader writes:

You don’t give enough credit to the system we have in America. It is the closest thing to idealistic conditions as humanly possible (City of God, Augustine).

That’s bad enough, of course. But in addition to my failure to identify America with the City of God, I am in peril of making shipwreck of my faith, as another reader warned darkly last week after I dangerously insisted that we should heed the Church on other matters in addition to abortion:

This article is a compound, complex mix of various topics and it makes sense in only one level. The pseudo attack on “conservative Catholics” vs. the quasi support for liberal Catholics; tied to the topic of just/unjust war and abortion, and offering direction to . . . well no where.

This is the kind of writing that comes from the “I” and not the works of the Holy Spirit. The works of Marc [sic] Shea have had the inspired attributes of the Holy Spirit in the past; this article is clearly NOT ONE OF THEM!

Marc, please take a short rest, pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance . . . and in all humility, listen; lest you end up another dissident ex-Catholic.

And yet another reader at the Free Republic site summed up the growing consensus of many conservative readers:

[Mark Shea is] a tool of the left wing.

That is really a shame, too. He used to be very, very orthodox and a good commentator. But around the time that the waterboarding stuff hit the news, something seems to have snapped.

These and a number other diagnoses of the state of my soul illustrate quite nicely the confusion that many conservative Catholics seem to have between “commitment to the talking points of Mainstream Talk Radio Conservatism” and what some of us still call “Catholic teaching.”

For, of course, what the reader means by “He used to be very, very orthodox” is not what the Catholic faith means by “orthodox.” I have never, so far as I know, said anything against the teaching of the Catholic Church. If, in some opinion of mine, I have accidently expressed an idea contrary to the teaching of Holy Church, I do repent me in sackcloth and ashes, abjure that opinion, and humbly submit my body, soul, and spirit to the teaching of Holy Church as to the very word of Jesus Christ, who alone can save my soul. But, so far as I know, I have tried with might and main to say that we should hew as closely as possible to the teaching of Holy Church — and that is what my reader means by “used to be very, very orthodox.”

 

Here’s how my Luciferian fall happened: When it became evident that the George W. Bush administration made torture and abuse of prisoners policy (and then set out to defend this policy via its various representatives in both political and media circles), I became critical and remained so throughout President Bush’s tenure. But the former president has been gone for some time now, and I had sincerely hoped that the Rubber Hose Right would quietly back down from this stunning lapse into un-American, un-Catholic, and immoral consequentialism. But, as the former President Bush and former Vice-President Dick Cheney have made clear, torture is now a core value of the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism; and so the Right is continuing to defend it and gives every indication that, as soon as possible, they will reinstitute this shameful legacy (which President Barack Obama, in any case, has only tepidly opposed). So I’m forced (now and then, when the subject comes up courtesy of some ripple in the news like, “Bush defends torture in new book”) to point out that the torture and abuse of prisoners is still contrary to the moral law, which, is, you know, what the Church teaches:

Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature “incapable of being ordered” to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image. These are the acts which, in the Church’s moral tradition, have been termed “intrinsically evil” (intrinsece malum): they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances. Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that “there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object.” The Second Vatican Council itself, in discussing the respect due to the human person, gives a number of examples of such acts: “Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honour due to the Creator.” (Veritatis Splendor, 80)

Now, it is customary at this juncture to initiate an entire host of failed arguments to get around the bleedin’ obvious truth (summed up by Pope Benedict XVI, when he said, “I reiterate that the prohibition against torture ‘cannot be contravened under any circumstances'”). What these failed arguments have in common is a) failure and b) an iron determination to find some way of saying torture is okay such that the failed arguments succeed one another with the restless fertility of bewilderment. What is obvious from this is that the conclusion has already been arrived at before the argument has been assembled — and that if one argument fails, then it is tossed away and another grasped in desperation. Often, after cycling through the whole assortment of crappy arguments, the torture defender will simply end up where he started and do the whole round again. What the ideologue bent on defending torture never stops to do is consider the possibility that Catholic teaching cannot be squared with the defense of torture, and that he needs to repent of trying to make it do so and just take Church teaching for what it obviously means.

If he did that, he would be freed, for instance, of playing the “Definition Game” and feigning puzzlement over whether inflicting torture like this really “rises to the level” of torture. He would not have to say ridiculous stuff like, “Next you’ll be saying sending somebody to bed without dinner is torture,” while studiously leaving undiscussed such forms of torture as leaving a man to freeze in the Afghanistan winter night. (Oh, by the way, the guy who murdered that particular victim is still employed by the CIA, so your tax dollars are hard at work.)

Also, the person who gives up trying to avoid obvious Church teaching about torture can address, rather than avoid, the question of whether renditioning a perfectly innocent man to be tortured in Syria for ten months is torture. He can also face the fact that torturing somebody will not cause the regime that tortures him to get good intel but rather to just plain lie in order to cover up the fact that we torture innocent people. Likewise, the person who tries to make sense rather than nonsense of Church teaching can be free to consider the reality that, when you approve of torture and other war crimes in the name of “But it works!” you throw open the door to other forms of efficiency you didn’t think about, such as threatening to kill the children and rape the mothers of detainees.

Indeed, somebody who listens to Church teaching, rather than attempting to nuance it out of existence, need never again ponder whether there could be some fine shade of argument for suffocating a prisoner and sheilding his murderer from prosecution. Nor does he have to worry his pretty head about the gossamer thin threads of logic that might legitimate beating an innocent cabby to death for the crime of being in the wrong place during a police roundup in a third-world country. All of this fruitless mental exertion calculated to avoid the plain truth staring him in the face can be avoided, and he can simply capitulate to the clear and obvious truth evident to anyone with common sense.

Or, alternatively, people who mistake Mainstream Conservative Talking Points for “orthodoxy” can continue making excuses for all these filthy things in percentages larger than the general American population. If so, then odds are we shall never discuss these other forms of torture. For in the blogosphere and in the media, it’s always and only “enhanced interrogation” that is under discussion. And “enhanced interrogation” is always and only a euphemism for “waterboarding,” which is in turn a euphemism for “simulated drowning” — which is a species of torture that everybody wants to pretend is not torture, but which we have court-martialed troops for doing in the past. That, and only that, is what everybody in the blogosphere means by torture — or rather “torture,” for the scare quote is the essential best friend of the torture defender.

 

And so the discussion in cyberspace and at the usual conservative watering holes in other media proceeds based on the theory that the core moral issue at stake is, “How close can we get to committing torture without quite doing it?” When court prophets for the Catholic Defense of Torture get involved, it is generally demanded that, until the Church gives a complete and detailed list of every permutation on every torture technique that might ever be conceived of by the ingenuity of man, there is simply no way at all to even know what torture is. And so, relying on the increasingly popular conservative doctrine that “Opposition to abortion taketh away the sins of the world,” we arrive at formulations like this, calculated to herd Catholics of troubled conscience back on to the reservation of the party of Bush and Cheney:

While the Church infallibly teaches that torture is an intrinsic evil, she does not infallibly teach that waterboarding is torture. But Holy Mother Church DOES teach infallibly that abortion is intrinsic evil.

This ingenious fallacy manages to combine the Appeal to Finer Detail with Omitting Facts in an Analogy. It’s great for bamboozling suckers (and especially suckers who long to be bamboozled). But, still and all, the correct parallelism here is actually this:

“While the Church infallibly teaches that torture is an intrinsic evil, she does not infallibly teach that waterboarding is torture.”

And:

“While the Church infallibly teaches that abortion is an intrinsic evil, she does not infallibly teach that suction aspiration is abortion.”

Strangely, the people who are so baffled by the Church’s silence when it comes to defining each and every possible permutation of what techniques constitute torture have no trouble figuring out what constitutes abortion, even when the Church neglects to play “Simon Peter Says.” It’s as though they recognize that the Church expects us to have the sense God gave a goose, able to perform these elementary bits of moral calculus when they really want to. And, indeed, I think the Church’s moral tradition gives us plenty of guidance on how to proceed here, whether the question has to do with Pelvic Issues or War.

Perhaps an analogy will help. When somebody starts asking questions like, “How close can I get to committing adultery with my hot secretary without quite doing it?” I suspect most people would suggest that the person asking this question is already speaking out of a deeply corrupt motive. The Church’s counsel to such a person is not, “Go ahead and rent the motel room and share the bed with her, just don’t actually quite have sex.” Rather, the Church says, “Why are you framing the question this way? Avoid the near occasion of sin.”

It’s the same with the ridiculous attempts to search for fine shades of distinction between drowning a man versus pulling out his fingernails. The Church doesn’t merely say “don’t torture” and leave us without a clue as to what we should do instead. Rather, it offers us a positive command as well:

Non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated humanely. (Catechism 2313)

If we are serious about treating prisoners humanely (as the Church, you know, commands), we won’t be asking ourselves how close we can get to torturing them without drowning them — just as, if we love our spouse, we won’t be asking how far we can go with the secretary or the milkman without it quite being adultery.

 

Now, all this is called “being obedient to Holy Church,” not “unorthodox” (except by people who confuse Mainstream Conservative Talking Points with the Catechism of the Catholic Church). It is, in fact, a call to come away from the world’s wisdom and listen to the common teaching of the Church — a teaching that was in place and unremarkable until the United States made it controversial by choosing to exempt itself from normal rules of war after 9/11. Up until that point, nobody was asking insane questions like, “If we can’t torture, how can we possibly interrogate prisoners?” because we had already interrogated such pantywaists as Nazis and Commies by conventional means — with great success. Indeed, as real interrogators have labored to point out to those laptop bombardiers who denounce critics of torture as “unrealistic” (based on their deep knowledge of 24 and Bruce Willis movies), conventional means still work best  — making torture not only evil but stupid, since it ruins intel, destroys the possibility of putting real terrorists away, gets innocent people killed or profoundly injured, and endangers our troops.

My principal concern, as somebody interested in Catholic teaching, has been the first point: It’s evil and will send you to hell. And for that simple reason, I continue to bang away at the point. That should be enough. But since it’s not, let me add this:

Secondary to the fact that it’s evil and will send you to hell is the fact that it is fantastically stupid for Christians in a rapidly de-Christianizing culture to urge the instruments of torture into the hands of a pagan Caesar who is coming to hate them. Some fools will continue to harp on the claim, “But it works!” Yes. Sometimes. And the prophecy of the Weird Sisters to Macbeth worked, too. Still and all, as Macbeth discovered late in the game, something that is profoundly evil winds up hurting you in the long run, even if it “works” in the short run. And so the spectacle of Catholics shouting down Holy Church with, “It works! Let us have torture!” is like some grim version of an old vaudeville routine with Caesar looking at the audience and saying, “They asked for it. Shall I give it to them?” It’s a classic example of the Two Phases of History (Phase 1: “What could it possibly hurt?” Phase 2: “How were we supposed to know?”). So, for moral as well as purely selfish reasons, I think the Christians who imagine that this bargain with the devil will turn out well for themselves and keep them safe should remember: God is not mocked.

Which brings me back to my diagnosticians and the astounding charge of a lapse in orthodoxy when I allegedly “snapped” over torture. What fascinates me is that, judging from both my mail and feedback around the Web, there still seems to be, even at this late date, quite a number of Catholics who cannot for the life of them see any connection whatever between my views on this matter and my faith as a Catholic in the obvious teaching of the Church. Again and again I’m told (to quote a typical reader at random), “Shea needs to stay out of politics, and focus on what he does best: apologetics.” What, after all, could a purely political matter like torture (whatever that cloud cuckoo thing might be) have to do with the rational defense of faith in a man who was beaten within an inch of his life and then spiked to a cross and left to suffocate on the say-so of a state body whose press release regarding the matter read simply, “If this man were not an evildoer, we would not have handed him over” (Jn 18:30)? Why can’t I stick to spiritual things? The gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to saying dangerous liberal stuff like, “Be docile to the Church, not only about abortion but even about matters highly unpopular with your own political tribe.” But the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to brave defenses of torture, and those who find it are few.

Mark P. Shea

By

Mark P. Shea is the author of Mary, Mother of the Son and other works. He was a senior editor at Catholic Exchange and is a former columnist for Crisis Magazine.

  • smf

    Mark,

    I think a lot of it is a matter of style, tone, etc rather than real substance.

    At times you do a type of writing that is not clearly placed in any of the usual categories regularly encountered, and so it can seem disagreeable even if the underlying point is agreeable. Further, your underlying point often does not fit any of the expected or comfortable molds, thus also making it seem disagreeable.

    Then again, what do I know. No one in their right mind would ever pay me to write anything, that is for sure, and if they did no one would read it. At least the disagreement proves someone reads what you write.

  • smf

    That said the torture debate regarding water boarding tends to produce far more smoke and heat than light.

    From absurd what-ifs, to frothing at the mouth indignation, to fire and brimstone you are all going to hell polemics, to glossy eyed stares of the uncomprhending, to muddled thinking and relativistic reasoning, to assumptions and presumptions the debate has it all.

    Sadly it has little real useful, prudent, reasonable discourse.

    For my own part I agree completely that torture is never a good. Then there is the rather less clear question of classifying water boarding or other particular things as torture. At this point I am convinced I don’t want to have anything to do with water boarding or being water boarded, but I am not at all really certain it is an intrinsic evil. Further, I tend to think most of those that did it or authorized it, etc. are probably not going to hell for it. While the matter may perhaps be intrinsically grave, there is the question of full knowledge and full consent that I think is likely not met given all I know of this.

    The worst of the thing is two suspicions I have:

    I think there are a few people that like water boarding and see it as a way of participating in giving those they wish to be damned a foretaste of the damnation they will upon them.

    I think a few also have some desire to look down from heaven at the water boarders in hell and say “I told you so.”

    Both of those would be terrible things, and I hope I am wrong and no one really has such desires.

  • Brennan

    I certainly agree that there has been a lot of brouhaha over the torture issue. I’m going to attempt to honestly give my thoughts on it.

    First, if one does not hold that torture can be defined as intrinsically evil, that does not ergo mean anything goes and waterboarding is fine. One can still vigorously oppose that.

    One issue is that I simply don’t think one can dogmatically define something as intrinsically evil if the thing itself cannot be defined. This applies not only to torture but also to other items in the quote from Veritatis Splendor: “whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions,… deportation,… degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons:”

    This quite frankly is frustrating because for the life of me, if the Pope had really meant to say that torture is intrinsically evil, why is it included with other items like “subhuman living conditions” which, like, torture, has no clear and hard definition? And of course there’s deportation which is just begging for further explanation. Deportation is an intrinsic evil as well?!

    This goes to the fact that while the Church can dogmatically forbid fornication it is a different arena if one tries to define how far a man can go with a woman before marriage. It simply is not possible since we are talking about dogmatic definitions.

    And since it cannot be dogmatically defined that does not therefore give carte blanche for a man to go as far as he can short of fornication. No, there certainly can be a positive admonition to treat the woman with the utmost respect, just as the Church can encourage us to do more than receive the Eucharist and go to confession once a year, which is a hard and fast definition (though not a dogma).

    The Church encourages us to become Saints. So also the Church can encourage us to treat all people humanely. But we are talking about dogmatic definitions here, and the style of writing in Veritatis Splendor seems to start begging questions and is a far cry from the way dogma has been defined in previous Councils such as Trent or Vatican I (and of course I realize Veritatis Splendor is a papal encyclical).

    Jimmy Akin has written cogently on this issue and here is a quote:

    “In Veritatis Splendor, John Paul II quoted a list of social evils–including torture–from Gaudium et Spes and seemed to apply the label “intrinsically evil” to this list. This does not strike me as sufficient to settle the question, though, for as His Awesomeness Cardinal Dulles has pointed out, John Paul II’s use of this passage from Gaudium et Spes appears to have important unstated qualifiers and thus some of the items on the list (e.g., deportations) do not on their face appear to be intrinsically evil without further qualification. The possibility is thus raised (and I view Dulles’s article as turning the possibility into a probability) that the pope was speaking in a general rather than a technical way and without further qualification we cannot simply say that every item on the list is intrinsically immoral.”

    http://www.jimmyakin.org/2006/11/defining_tortur.html

  • bill bannon

    Splendor of the Truth for example calls slavery an intrinsic evil and God gives chattel slavery to the Jews in Leviticus 25:

    44
    “Slaves, male and female, you may indeed possess, provided you buy them from among the neighboring nations.
    45
    You may also buy them from among the aliens who reside with you and from their children who are born and reared in your land. Such slaves you may own as chattels,
    46
    and leave to your sons as their hereditary property, making them perpetual slaves. But you shall not lord it harshly over any of the Israelites, your kinsmen.”
    —————————————————————-

    Slavery is unfortunate but it cannot be an intrinsically evil act if God gave it as an action that Jews could do. Yes God gave them divorce but they had no sacrament of Matrimony and their marriage was akin to non baptized marriages that can be the subject of privilege of the faith cases by the Church.
    Torture was supported in the old canons from 1253 til 1917 though papally opposed in 1816. Fight it….but infallibly condemned it is not. “Splendor of the Truth”‘s section 80 is way too problem fraught for that level. See Evangelium Vitae on abortion, euthanasia and killing the innocent for infallibilty as to moral issues. A concise and slightly changed version of the ex cathedra wording is used there since the Pope had polled all bishops worldwide on those issues and stated so.

  • Tom

    This discussion would be more productive if you stopped characterizing only yourself as orthodox while casting aspersions on those who disagree with you. Why don’t you write a serious paper on the subject? There are plenty of moral theologians out there you could consult.

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Mark…everyone, including the “Rubber Hose Right” agrees that torture is immoral and un-American. Where I part ways with you on this issue is your insistance on the “Right” being in favor of torture.

    While I’m certain you can find someone who will say “I’m in favor of torture,” that wasn’t the Bush Administration policy. In fact, quite the opposite: in a 2002 Military Order and a subsequent 2006 Executive Order, Mr Bush emphasized that despite not being entitled to POW status under the Laws of Armed Conflict, detainees were to be treated in accordance with Geneva and Hague Conventions.

    The fact that more journalists have been (voluntarily) waterboarded than terrorists…and suffered neither physical nor psychological harm…should suggest to you that waterboarding *might* not be torture after all. Is it scary? Yes. Is it dangerous or harmful? No.

    Additionally, waterboarding (or something like it) is part of Survival, Resistance, Escape, and Evasion training American aircrew receive. Lieutenant Bush himself probably went through something similar when he went through SERE training. Cripes, as a military college graduate, I was subject to hazing that would probably be called “torture” to some…but while it was possibly ill-advised for cadets to do, it wasn’t torture. The only people calling what we did to these high value detainees “torture” are either miss-informed, idealogically blinded, or both.

    You have often stated that the legal opinions which declared some interrogation techniques were simply “ends justifying means” and “pharisee like” legalism (my paraphrase) proves we weren’t adhering to First Principles. In fact, those of us with military experience understand that when managing violence and deadly force, clear lines are necessary to restrain ourselves and each other from abusing that force. In stressful situations, even when conducting interrogations, it is easy to cross lines. That’s why those lines need to be bright and well understood.

    Yes, there have been abuses in this war…Abu Ghraib sticks out. There are abuses and even atrocities in every war, which is why we in the military hate war most of all. We educate the force on the Law of Armed Conflict, we police ourselves as much as possible, and we prosecute offenders. It is worth noting that the offenders at Abu Ghraib were prosecuted by the Army and brought to justice.

    In your critique of the Admininstration and the military for detainee policies, you often cited stories from three sources: uncorroborated reports from detainees, anti-Bush, and anti-US groups. I have never seen you reference primary sources. Not once. Your evidence is worse than hearsay.

    The cold facts are that our enemies lie. Political opponents of the previous Administration lie. They lie and manipulate the press successfully. They did in this case. As an OIF vet, I was appalled at the lies in the press when I came home after a year. It was breath-taking.

    Yes, some on the Right use the fallacious “ends justify means” argument. This is neither Catholic nor logical. I am not defending that reasoning. But that misses the point as well.

    What I am saying is that it was *not* the policy of the Bush Administration to torture, not by a long shot. If you want to make the case that waterboarding, sleep deprevation, etc, are too close to the line to be acceptable…I’m open to that line of argument, it’s a good one. But frankly, I’m tired of you continually mis-characterizing the premise (“Bush was a torturer”) then moralizing to faulty conclusions.

  • Giovanni A. Cattaneo

    To you, I do not think that you are left wing or right wing, however when it comes to actual politics I do no think your opinions are very good.

    I do think you are an orthodox Catholic commentator and a great apologist when things such as torture comes around you set me straight and I had to realize that I was wrong.

    However there are many comments you have made and continue to make that just seem incredibly unfair. For one when the issue of torture came about you immediately demonized the Right for being evil or being Evil Corp or something like that. Yet when Pres. Obama was socializing the country you did not react, the take overs of GM, there was eventually commentary but it was tame and late. May be one line compared to what would be considered pages of excoriating the Right.

    In other occasions when ever the Left did something wrong or evil you would def call them out on it, however at the same time you would excuse it, it would seem, by pointing out that the Right had opened the door for such behavior.

    Also other outrageous statements such as “if the left abandoned their support for abortion they would never loose another election” just leaves one scratching his head.

    Look there are other issues but I will stick to those that you have wanted to discuss over all though I love your website I think you are champion for the Faith and I wish there were people like you out there defending the Church. Still that does not mean that I agree with you in everything or that I share many of your other opinions.

  • Brian English

    “But, as the former President Bush and former Vice-President Dick Cheney have made clear, torture is now a core value of the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism;”

    What is this even supposed to mean?

    “If he did that, he would be freed, for instance, of playing the “Definition Game” and feigning puzzlement over whether inflicting torture like this really “rises to the level” of torture.”

    Because in Shea’s World, if you conclude that the waterboarding of three terrorist leaders was justified under the circumstances after 9/11, that also means you approve of, and support, negligent homicides committed by any US troops or intelligence officers, anywhere in the world.

    ” but which we have court-martialed troops for doing in the past.”

    Major Glenn was suspended for a month and fined $50 for engaging in actions completely different from the waterboarding technique used on the al Qaeda leaders. With the “water cure” used in the Philippines, water was actually forced into the stomach, and then forced out, which obviously could cause organ damage.

  • Aaron

    Are there some American Catholics for whom American is the substantive term rather than the other way around? Sure. Do some of those of a more conservative bent grasp at any straw possible to bolster positions acquired without previous reference to the Church’s authoritative teaching? You bet. Does proceeding from these facts to 1) the generalization that Catholic conservatives by and large support torture and 2) are, of course, dupes of radio talking heads contribute anything to the Catholic debate about torture? Not in the least.

    Cdl. Dulles was an excellent theologian. He never settled for the most recent magisterial statement. Rather, he looked at the magisterium of the present, compared its teachings to all those of the past, and then formed synthetic conclusions. This method allowed him to say such things as, to paraphrase, “I absolutely agree with John Paul II’s limitation on the use of the death penalty, but there’s no way it can be taken as authoritative teaching – that is to say, his statements as they stand would, as teaching, contradict most every utterance the Church has ever authoritatively made on the subject, so they are either a prudential judgment, or they are false.” Note the order to his method: 1) read current teaching, 2) see if this squares with past teaching, 3) find a way to reconcile any seemingly contradictory passages, 4) form an opinion on what to do with that synthetic teaching you have discovered.

    Now let’s take a look at Mark’s seeming method in his war against the dreaded Catholic right: 1) begin with an opinion, 2) find the most recent magisterial teaching that supports this, 3) declare that single statement unqualifiable, 4) aggregate those who seek to qualify it under the most nefarious possible category of naysayers.

    How has this method played out recently? If someone who, like Cdl. Dulles, believes it wise to forego the death penalty in order to win a cultural battle but simultaneously upholds the Church’s entire Magisterium that justifies its use for four reasons, that someone becomes, by dint of opposing the preconceived notion that the death penalty cannot be used in modern America, a “death penalty maximalist”. Or we could look at the imbroglio over the distinction between (un)just war and abortion. Dare to say that the Church does in fact distinguish between these two cases and suddenly Mark divines that 1) you are an uncritical supporter of the Iraq war and 2) you think knowing, intentional support of unjust war is a minor piccadillo, rather than a grave sin.

    I, for one, would say that Mark’s commonsense preconceived opinion – that torture is clearly wrong, and we ought not to be perpetrating it – is very commonsensical. But his mode of proceeding from that opinion is irresponsible. Cdl. Dulles did the background work and said, “it’s not that simple, we can’t assume torture is being condemned as an intrinsic evil.” Read: do some homework, and you’ll find you can’t close any case, as Mark attempted above, with this particular money quote. Fr. Harrison, one of Mark’s particular betes noires, combed the history of magisterial pronouncements and concluded that on the basis of those texts it is possible to make a case for one limited justification for the use of torture. Call the conclusions what you will, it’s an actual theological investigation that seeks to probe the boundaries of official teaching.

    One can look at those two writers arguments and conclude that they are still wrong WITHOUT assuming that the disagreement renders them impious, slack-jawed buffoons. But I have yet to read a Shea article on one of these hot-button issues that either concedes the possibility that serious theological work could be done by his opponents or that refrains from taking the leap to demonization under the harshest of terms.

  • Brian English

    “Perhaps an analogy will help. When somebody starts asking questions like, “How close can I get to committing adultery with my hot secretary without quite doing it?” I suspect most people would suggest that the person asking this question is already speaking out of a deeply corrupt motive.”

    Your clever little analogy leaves out a critical factor: the guy trying to figure out how far he can go with his secretary before committing adultery is not pursuing that question in order to try and prevent the deaths of thousands of people. When trying to figure out how to prevent the next terrorist attack, “Don’t even go there” is not an option.

    “Non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated humanely. (Catechism 2313)”

    Absolutely correct. However, spies and saboteurs have always been treated far more harshly. Did the Church condemn the executions of the six Nazi saboteurs who landed in New York and Florida in 1942?

    “”If we can’t torture, how can we possibly interrogate prisoners?” because we had already interrogated such pantywaists as Nazis and Commies by conventional means — with great success.”

    In 1945, when there was merely a THREAT of an attack on Eastern Seaboard cities by German U-Boats firing V-2 Rockets, some of the captured crew members of U-Boats that were sunk during Operation Teardrop were subjected to “shock interrogation” techniques — which included beatings and forced exercise to exhaustion.

    As far as the commies go, a 1963 CIA interrogation manual includes a technique very similar to waterboarding, so apparently our fight against Communism was not as pristine as you would have liked either.

  • Rich Browner

    Mark, I appreciate your piece and am glad to see it.

    I think it serves the church well. Sure, the tone is at times uncharitable, I will say that. I sense your impatience and frustration, I think.

    Thank you for being the prophetic voice that afflicts the comfortable when that is required. The fact that you have the usual responses here saying “here we go again”, is fruit of this good work in my opinion.

    It seems odd to me that there is anyone on a Christian website who even needs to split hairs over this matter. Torture is wrong, and inhumane treatment is torture. But, I know some do. Some need to sift until they get it. Let them, dont pick at them, just because they pick at you. It took me a long time to learn this one. But, I dont put myself “out there” that often anymore either.

    I do not fault people this activity of needing to split hairs or be absolutely precise on definitions, nor will I say they lack common sense nor any other uncivil thing. We are all here trying to live and make sense of it all. I took forever to learn some lessons, while some others I just got right off. I still have lots to learn. Thankfully, when it comes to the evil of war, or abortion, or whatever else, I think I get it. But I can only speak for myself.

    Your article here though…it says all the right things while also poking a few in ways that might not be helpful. I certainly can understand your frustration. This does not mean that I think your tone is good, but I know I would certainly fare no better. I am certain I am much worse in the delivery department.

    All this to say, as imperfect the delivery might be, I think you’re right, and right to keep at it. Keep it up!

  • Mark Shea

    Rich:

    Thanks for your kind words. Re: the sundry other contributors to this thread so far let me add this:

    In addition to the weirdness of the suggestion that opposition to torture constitutes an abandonment of orthodoxy, I suppose I should also take this space to register my amazement at the weird inversion of values that so consistently drives people to say things like, “Torture? No big deal. Tone of voice that hurts my delicate feelings? O the Humanity!” I have never met more fragile buttercups than comboxers who are ready and eager to inflict torture on total strangers. Cowboy up, dudes!

  • MarylandBill

    This article gets to the root of why I find it so hard to vote for either major party in the United States. I think Mark, for the most part is right on the money. Obviously (At least to me), he is not talking about Catholic Conservatives who opposed water boarding and other forms of torture; he is talking about those Conservatives who claim to be Catholic but who try to show how, with the exception of the Church’s teaching on abortion and perhaps Gay Marriage, that what the Church teaches is not binding upon them.

    Perhaps most of the matters they are discussing are matters of prudential judgment and therefore for good reasons, one can disagree with the Church’s recommendation (such as is the case with Capital Punishment). The question becomes, when one rejects all or nearly all of the recommendations, is one actually exercising judgment or simply rationalizing away the moral authority of the Church?

    My belief is that there are many, many Catholics (and probably other Christians as well) who do not particularly like either the Republicans or the Democrats. Certainly many of the policies put in place during the Bush administration (including but not limited to enhanced interrogation) are part of the reason we are not fans of the Republicans. We might support them because of their social agenda (i.e., abortion and gay marriage positions) but we definitely see them as being the lesser of two evils. Economically, we are not socialists, but we are also not believers in an unregulated (and untaxed) free market either.

    Some final thoughts….

    There is an intrinsic difference between the Government’s temporary take over of GM and torture. Torture is at least arguably intrinsically evil, the government take over of GM was not (Even ignoring the fact that it probably saved tens of thousands of American Jobs, including jobs in companies besides GM). Therefore, regardless of your economic beliefs, Mark was right to shine a much brighter light on torture.

    Volunteering to experience water boarding does not prove that water boarding is not itself torture. One of the key aspects about torture that make it torture is the involuntary nature of it. I am sure the journalists who experienced water boarding (And I am suspicious of claims that more journalists experienced it voluntarily than detainees experienced it involuntarily) did not experience anything like the real conditions experienced when it was done to prisoners.

  • Patrick

    In war, it is best to play against your opponent’s weaknesses, and deny him the use of his strengths. In general, bribery, heavily masked masculine insecurity, and self worth defined by sexual conquest are weaknesses that are best exploited. As such, you gets FAR more information regarding jihadi activities through open bribery. My cousin often tells the story that he managed to make a man rat out his own brother for just one pill of Viagra. And yes, the information did lead to the elimination of the terrorist/insurgent without collateral damage.

    Whether this was moral or not is subject to another debate, and I am not suggesting that the US military should be in the prostitution business, but the matter of efficacy of torture is very, very limited.

  • Mark

    “I have never met more fragile buttercups than comboxers who are ready and eager to inflict torture on total strangers. Cowboy up, dudes!”

    This coming from a man who has comments removed because they include the term “limp-wristed” — laughable.

    Regarding the “issue” of waterboarding, the scab you continually pick Mr. Shea is your own. But hey, at least you have the pro-homosexual crowd in your corner.

  • Mark Shea

    But hey, at least you have the pro-homosexual crowd in your corner.

    ?! In the words of today’s youth, “What the WTF?” That has to be the most hilarious thing I’ve read this morning.

  • Fuquay Steve

    Please stick writing about the Legionnaires.

  • Patrick

    Nice column, Mr. Shea. Terrific, in fact.

    What is the difference between “very, very orthodox” and “very orthodox”? Or, say, “quite orthodox” and “rather orthodox”? By definition, orthodoxy has no degrees. It is like saying something is “very, very singular” or “extremely bipedal.”

    Lest you dismiss the point as frivolous, I think there’s the rub for people who think “orthodoxy” means Fidelity to Right Wing Talking Points. To wit, “orthodoxy” permits no degrees, but Fidelity to Right Wing Talking Points assuredly *does* permit degrees.

  • Kevin

    We lament often that people don’t know their history, but it’s sad when they forget events less than a decade old. We gave Bush a blank check to use against terrorists. Now Obama’s cashing it against Tea Partiers (remember the Homeland Security report last year). I think we’ve had too many cases of “it’s okay when WE do it.” It’s certainly well and good to oppose abortion and gay marriage. I can see why that would lead many well-meaning Catholics toward the Right. But making common cause with either side on certain issues, or in a given election cycle, shouldn’t entail drinking either side’s brand of materialist Kool-Aid.

    I think you’re right, Mark. Once the Obamunists are out and the Thing that Used to be Conservatism reigns supreme, a lot of your “orthdox” friends are likely going to be astonished at how quickly they’re thrown under the bus.

  • Brian English

    “Secondary to the fact that it’s evil and will send you to hell is the fact that it is fantastically stupid for Christians in a rapidly de-Christianizing culture to urge the instruments of torture into the hands of a pagan Caesar who is coming to hate them.”

    As if evil men needed some type of precedent for their behavior.

    This also points towards the most absurd aspect of your view on this issue: in your eyes, the men who waterboarded three al Qaeda leaders to try to save lives after a vicious attack on this country are no better than the agents of some future Caesar waterboarding three bishops in order to try to force them to reveal the names of the members of their flocks so that they can be rounded up and executed.

  • Okie

    Mr. Shea, do you write about anything else anymore? (this is a rhetorical question…please don’t provide a list of things you have written recently. By the way you write about this subject, that would be the inane sort of literalism I would expect as a response to my rhetorical question above).

    Also, nice use of the Ad Hominem fallacy (this is sarcasm…I don’t really mean it…I am not congratulating you here). The crowd quoting Card. Dulles are not worried about tone, they are simply making a good point, that statements that supersede the entirety of past teaching of Catholic Doctors must be taken in context, and cannot be automatically determined to be infallible teaching. The point the above readers made about the death penalty and What JPII said is a perfectly relevant point to this discussion, as it seems St. Augustine and St. Thomas condone many of the actions modern folks would describe as “torture.” Therefore, as good Catholics, when we read modern Popes saying that torture is wrong, we must either say that the modern declarations are context based, or what the former Doctors of the Church condone is not necessarily torture, and so we go about doing what folks have always done in philosophy; we make distinctions between particular actions. Its not splitting hairs, it philosophical investigation. Its how we decided that NFP is not the same thing as contraception. On the surface, both actions seem to want to avoid pregnancy. Looked at in depth, there is a distinction to be made. Furthermore, you can use NFP with a “contraceptive mindset,” and it still be sinful. Perhaps, and that’s all we are saying, PERHAPS there are distinctions to be made when it comes to punishing people, especially when the state can punish them to obtain information, and torture. That doesn’t mean I love water-boarding or the Republican party. But I do love St. Augustine and St. Thomas, and I love Jesus Christ, and when the Lord speaks of hell in terms of excruciating punishments given to sinners, I would have to think that God is not a torturer, but a just judge, and that there is a possibility that some analogous distinction can be made for rulers on earth.

  • Raphael

    Grow up. Waterboarding isn’t torture. Get your panties out of a knot and join the Church Militant, not the emasculated crew of feminites who have been steering the Church and the West into sterilty and destruction.

  • Mark Shea

    You obviously read the last link in my piece. The Catholic-educated member of the Church Militant quoted there made exactly your argument for equating courage with brutality.

  • Mark Shea

    What is the difference between “very, very orthodox” and “very orthodox”?

    Yes. That is a puzzler. Reminds me of the bafflement I used to feel about naming a deoderant “extra dry” as distinct from just “dry”. smilies/smiley.gif

  • Mark Shea

    the more you repeat the stale lie about “the men who waterboarded three al Qaeda leaders” the more obvious you make it that you aren’t even bothering to read the piece before giving your tape-recorded responses. Since you can’t be bothered to read, I won’t be bothered to reply to you.

  • Tony Wawrzynski

    Mark Shea is entirely correct on this question. Torture is intrinsically evil, therefore recourse to it can never be justified even if it could yield useful intelligence – a doubtful proposition, anyway. Also, determining what does and does not sink to the level of torture is not that difficult. Waterboading, beatings, removing fingernails, threatening with vicious dogs, etc. clearly quaify.

    Brian English’s point that torture has been employed during at times by the US government proves nothing. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. Furthermore, regardless of what undoubtedly occurred in previous wars, torture had never been given the official approval that the Bush Aministration frankly bestowed on it. I am embarrassed to see otherwise decent and smart people resort to such sophistry in the defense of the indefensible.
    The question I have for Mr. Shea

  • Mark

    “?! In the words of today’s youth, “What the WTF?” That has to be the most hilarious thing I’ve read this morning.” – Mark Shea

    Folks who visit this site for reasons other than making money will get it. I’m sorry it was lost on you.

    “Torture is wrong, and inhumane treatment is torture.” – Rich Browner

    How is it that the uber-righteous never admit that locking human beings in cages like animals with daily threats of beatings and rape until the day they die, is not inhumane treatment?

  • Doral Hemm

    Mark, your excellent article has done one thing at least. That is to say it has brought the people who are Americans First, Second and always (and Catholics if it suits them) out of the woodwork.

    While I agree with what you have written here, I am of the opinion that you are accomplishing little. The advocates of torture, abortion and birth control have never obeyed the Pope or the Catholic Church. Why would you expect them to give you a fair and reasoned hearing?

    Still, although tilting at windmills may be out of season, in the end Don Quixote was proven right. Keep up the good work Mark.

  • Erin Manning

    …is sort of like “extra medium.” smilies/smiley.gif

    I agree with Mark that torture is intrinsically evil. But for those who don’t think it rises to the level of intrinsic evil, just ordinary every-day evil, I have a question: is your insistence that torture isn’t intrinsic evil really just a justification for using it whenever you think it might be justified?

    Ordinarily we’re supposed to avoid evil whether it’s intrinsic or not. “Do good and avoid evil” doesn’t have all sorts of footnotes about avoiding only *intrinsic* evils, but not worrying too much about things which may be garden-variety evil. In fact, as I understand it, one can never deliberately choose to do anything that is evil. So if we agree that torture is evil, doesn’t that mean we’ve agreed that it ought not be done?

    Or is anyone out there actually arguing that torture is a morally good act, or a morally neutral one? Given the violation of the human person that torture (including waterboarding) always involves, it’s pretty hard to argue that torturing someone is a morally neutral act.

  • Fuquay Steve

    I consider your leftist rant TORTURE therefore …

  • Micha Elyi

    There Shea goes again with expressions such as “rubber hose right” that violate The Rules.

    Oh, and he’s wrong about what’s torture too.

  • Fuquay Steve

    Mark please tell us about your bellybutton you are so fond of studying?

  • Mark Shea

    is your insistence that torture isn’t intrinsic evil really just a justification for using it whenever you think it might be justified?

    It is a curious point, isn’t it? We constantly hear the insistence from these people that it isn’t torture (just as, for instance, abortion isn’t murder). It’s a legitimate and legal procedure that “saves lives”. And yet, they are also weirdly insistent on it being “rare”. Why? If it’s such a harmless life-saving measure, why not deploy it constantly? And why merely to “save lives”? Why not all the time for every sort of serious crime on every suspect? If thing are as the torture defenders would have us believe, then it would appear the Administration was derelict in it duty by only inflicting this harmless splash of water on three people.

    Funny thing is: if Caesar hears the prayer of Catholic torture defenders, he may indeed say, “Yeah! We *do* we limit the use of this? Let’s use it on all sorts of people, including those dangerous prolifers who *might* be plannning to shoot an abortionist! What about those Catholics? What are the hiding when it comes to those pervert priests? It’s harmless procedure! Let’s do it For the Children?”

  • Gabriel Austin

    We live in a softer age than our ancestors, and are thus horrified by torture. However, it was not thus so in later Middle Ages. The Church recognized that torture existed. And indeed it formulated rules for the application of torture. For example, to be used only once. But its regulations were aimed at mitigation.
    Thus arises the question whether, as the Church did not disapprove of the use of torture in chasing heretics [a danger to the state], can the use of torture be approved in our time? There is no ready answer.

  • Brian English

    “the more you repeat the stale lie about “the men who waterboarded three al Qaeda leaders” the more obvious you make it that you aren’t even bothering to read the piece before giving your tape-recorded responses. Since you can’t be bothered to read, I won’t be bothered to reply to you.”

    What aspect of what I said was a lie? Were they not al Qaeda leaders? Were some of the interrogators not men?

    Or are you referring to the negligent homicides and prisoner abuse that took place? Am I “lying” because I don’t accept your little scenario where defending the waterboarding also means you have to defend the negligent homicides and prisoner abuse. I know you cannot believe this, but people can actually condemn those things (and some of the perpetrators have gone to jail for them) and still conclude the waterboarding of three al Qaeda leaders was justified.

  • Brian English

    “The question I have for Mr. Shea

  • Mark Shea

    There is no ready answer.

    Yes. There is.

    2298 In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.

  • Brian English

    “Or is anyone out there actually arguing that torture is a morally good act, or a morally neutral one? Given the violation of the human person that torture (including waterboarding) always involves, it’s pretty hard to argue that torturing someone is a morally neutral act.”

    What about the violation of the human person of the people slaughtered on 9/11? What about the violation of the human person of the people who probably would have died if waterboarding had not been used? Mark and his supporters show a lot of concern for the killers; not much concern for those killed or those going to be killed.

    Let me ask you this: In your eyes, are the men who waterboarded three al Qaeda leaders to try to save lives after a vicious attack on this country no better than the agents of some future Caesar waterboarding three bishops in order to try to force them to reveal the names of the members of their flocks so that they can be rounded up and executed?

    Is it really your position that the Church is unable to distinguish between those two situations?

  • Brian English

    “While I agree with what you have written here, I am of the opinion that you are accomplishing little. The advocates of torture, abortion and birth control have never obeyed the Pope or the Catholic Church. Why would you expect them to give you a fair and reasoned hearing?”

    Interesting. You think those are all the same people?

    Do you really think that “advocates of torture” voted in large numbers for the most pro-abortion presidential candidate we have ever had? I don’t think you are right about that.

  • Brian English

    ” In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition.”

    So you regard this as an admission by the Church that it had engaged in intrinsic evil? Looking back and concluding that the practices “were not necessary for public order” and that we should “work for their abolition” are hardly the definitive statements one would expect to find based upon the vitrol you hurl at everyone who disagrees with you on this.

  • smf

    You make an interesting point, though I take something different from it than you.

    Essentially Mark Shea has no ability to reach those he needs to reach in these arguments. The battle lines have been too firmly drawn, the animosities are now as much personal as anything, and thus reason does not have a chance of being introduced by Mr. Shea. It needs to come from someone else. Someone they may yet listen to needs to take up the argument and try to answer the objections, because Mr Shea will not be able to be heard on this issue. That is unfortunate, but also rather understandable. Thus Mr Shea needs to pass the torch to someone else on this issue and move on to other things where he may yet get a fair hearing, and where the well is not yet poisioned.

  • Scott Maxwell

    Mark,
    I agree with you that torture is morally wrong. I will even go so far that if I were in the situation where I would (not potentially but definitely) save thousands of lives if I tortured someone, I know that the one being tortured would be me — should I do an evil act to do definite good, or should I stay on my high horse and “condemn” thousands to death because I want to remain pure. I won’t continue this line other than to say that I am concerned with them.

    With that being said, the problem that I see if the tone of the articles which more and more often appear to lump everyone who identifies with the “Right” in the camp of evil loonies while the “Left” is still segregated into the Loonie Left and the Left. Too put it more bluntly, what is driving you crazy about people who say you have gone off the deep end because you are taking a hard, no compromising stance on torture is the very thing that you are doing to those who identify with the Right.

    So take this that your style has become off putting, condescending, and rude. With this last posting I see glimmers that the “old” Mark is returning. Though I do not believe that you have infallible lock on proclaiming either orthodoxy or interpreting Catholic teachings, I do not believe anyone (outside the Pope himself) has that right either.

    So take a look at your writings. Some can and do appear to be partisan spin. There are many people who see torture as morally evil and forced waterboarding is indeed torture, however there are those who wrestle that this may indeed be a “necessary evil”. This opinion may indeed be morally wrong and I see your arguing against that as being a definite good. However, your tone has often been unhelpful, uncharitable, insulting, and ultimately cutting off the channels to conversion in others.

  • Mark Shea

    You can’t believe how happy I’d be to let somebody else do the heavy lifting on this. The Coalition for Clarity (Google them) is a fine start. But the main problem is, there aren’t a whole lot of other people on the right saying these things *to* the right. If you want to become one of them, be my guest.

  • Mark Shea

    Though I do not believe that you have infallible lock on proclaiming either orthodoxy or interpreting Catholic teachings, I do not believe anyone (outside the Pope himself) has that right either.

    Odd that when somebody else makes the accusation that I am heterodox because I criticize torture, more than one person somehow transmutes that charge into some claim by me that I am infallible and everybody else is heterodox. In point of fact, I make no claim about anybody else’s orthodoxy, much less my infallibility. I merely point out that proclaiming I “used to be very, very orthodox” and now am not due to my criticism of torture betrays a certain lack of grip on the meaning of the word “orthodox”.

  • Brian English

    “But the main problem is, there aren’t a whole lot of other people on the right saying these things *to* the right. If you want to become one of them, be my guest.”

    This is the problem. On abortion, ESCR, euthanasia, and gay marriage, you are on the right. On foreign policy issues, you are almost as far left as someone can get (you supported the invasion of Afghanistan, so I have to add the “almost”). The linking to Salon and the New Yorker is a dead give-away.

    That would be fine, except you insist that those who don’t agree with on the foreign policy issues are no better than Catholics for Obama. This causes a great deal of acrimony because: (1) it is not true; and (2) appears to be aimed at suppressing the Republican vote at a time when every vote is needed against the Party of Death.

  • Mark Shea

    Aside from the question of unjust war (wherein my views basically are “Just War doctrine should be heeded”) what, pray tell, are my views on foreign policy issues? Document them, please? And since you apparently believe in contraction of ritual impurity and guilt by association through linking would you also say that St. Thomas’ quoting of pagan and Muslim sources is a “dead giveaway”? Or do you only say such stupid things in the heat of trying to ignore the obvious teaching of the Church about torture?

    Why not leave some oxygen in the room for others and stop trying to turn each my posts into a Brian English monoblog?

    Sheesh!

  • Brian English

    “Aside from the question of unjust war (wherein my views basically are “Just War doctrine should be heeded”) what, pray tell, are my views on foreign policy issues? Document them, please?”

    Right Mark, you’re Patton.

    ” And since you apparently believe in contraction of ritual impurity and guilt by association through linking would you also say that St. Thomas’ quoting of pagan and Muslim sources is a “dead giveaway”?”

    Right, Averroes and Glenn Greenwald, same thing.

    “Or do you only say such stupid things in the heat of trying to ignore the obvious teaching of the Church about torture?”

    You stay classy Mark.

  • Jacob S

    I don’t understand the disagreement here. Torture is bad. Don’t do it. Even if you’re not convinced about water-boarding, the mere fact that so many people think that the action is torture should give us pause. And personally, I’d like to err on the side of not torturing people.

    At the same time though, I do think that the “rubber hose right” (of which I am generally a member, except, of course, that I don’t like killing people when we can avoid it) could probably largely be characterized in the same way that C.S. Lewis described English citizens during World War II – that is saying things like “torture is too good for our enemies” but giving tea and biscuits to those German pilots that crash in their backyards. Unfortunately, there’s a lot less crashed pilots getting cookies and a lot more supporting leaders that act on what many of us can no more than say. Screwtape Letters – read it.

  • Max

    Spot on Shea.

    You would enjoy the movie “Iraq for Sale”, showing how military contractors tortured innocent people in Iraq and permanently damaged some of the detainees, while the innocent detainees gave bad intel (of course) which pur troops in harms way.

    I’m laughing reading these ridiculous comments of Catholics trying to defend torture. It’s like they are trying to keep torture in play in case the Inquisition ever comes around again.

  • ThirstforTruth

    I wonder if the “pains of Hell” would be considered torture…if so apparently the Good Lord allows torture un-paralleled to go on for all Eternity for those
    who would deny the Truth! Hmm..sort of makes water-boarding look like kid stuff!

  • Mark Shea

    The conception of God, not as undergoing the cross to save sinners, but as eagerly salivating over the tortures of the damned says rather a lot about your conception of God, but not a lot about the Church’s obvious teaching re: torture. It does remind me of one of the sicker justifications for torture I’ve heard though: namely, “God wanted to torture Jesus to death, so it must be okay for us to do it too.” God grant that such people never have children to experiment on with their theories of discipline and punishment.

  • Heimdall

    Shea, you are right on torture—too right. As someone previously commented, this is a windmill which can’t really fight back. Yes, there are conservatives who advocate its use. But you will never convince them of their error as long as you are blind to the motives beneath the propaganda these people are swallowing from Hannity, Limbaugh, et. al. The first public figure who called openly for the use of torture was Alan Dershowitz. Read Norman Finkelstein to find out the truth about him!

  • Brian English

    ” Even if you’re not convinced about water-boarding, the mere fact that so many people think that the action is torture should give us pause. And personally, I’d like to err on the side of not torturing people.”

    The waterboarding of the three al Qaeda leaders was not done on a whim. Say what you want about the “torture memos”, but they are clear evidence of people struggling with what to do in extraordinary circumstances. Easy for the sanctimonious to condemn after the fact.

  • JGeorge

    ….are you saying that doing the same thing to a terrorist who planted a nuke in New York, and who knows where it is but won’t tell me, is morally unacceptable?

  • Barbara

    Megadittos Maximius Decimius Meridius.
    Remember Archibishop Sheen’s comment about people hating what they thought of the Catholic Church? It appears that you are as misinformed about conservatives in general and conservative Republicans in particular as the most bigoted Protestant about Catholicism and Catholics in Sheen’s day.
    Only you would consider Bush and Cheney conservative anything. How many conservative Republicans have to tell you that we’re against torture for you to believe us? Stop reading and believing the fishwrap.
    History shows us that the left-wing r

  • dave

    When will you comment on President Obama’s approval of indiscriminate drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Please comment on the loss of innocent lives for the sake of killing one presumed terrorist. Not much fanfare when the orders originate from left of center.

  • Mark Shea

    I’ve commented repeatedly on Obama’s arrogation of power to murder anybody on planet Earth, citizen or no, whom he declares to be an “enemy combatant”. That you are ignorant of this is not my responsibility.

  • Mark Shea

    as this:

    We inflict pain and discomfort on our children when they do bad things….
    ….are you saying that doing the same thing to a terrorist who planted a nuke in New York, and who knows where it is but won’t tell me, is morally unacceptable?

    …if you just listened to the Church. But no. You had to make a public spectacle of yourself, JGeorge.

    If you do “the same thing” to your children as was done to prisoners by Bush/Cheney, I double dog dare you to send me your name and address and let me contact Child Protective Services. I think you’ll discover fairly quickly that the norms for child discipline are rather different than the norms in a CIA black site or at Bagram.

    Sheesh!

  • Sue

    get a different picture with a trimmed beard?

    Sorry. My only recourse left is a personal attack.

    Once again, I don’t disagree with you regarding Church teaching. I still don’t know what your point is.

    Is it that:
    There is no one to vote for because Republicans are just as bas as Democrats?
    Let’s use our rhetoric to change the hearts of Republicans?
    You are just foaming at the mouth because you are forced to vote for Republicans who call themselves pro-life but aren’t perfect with regard to torture?

    Really, what is your PRACTICAL point?

    If you have buried it in your article, I apologize, but you usually lose me in the first paragraph. (or the picture.)

  • RB

    I am always suspicious of the literary convert who needs to make a living.
    Mark Shea has always had my jaundiced eye.

  • Greg

    I’m really broken up that we poured water over a mass murders face. I understand the that many Catholics politicians support Planned parenethood and abortion, but this is nothing compared to making a terrorist feel uncomfortable

  • Christian Aden

    I wonder if engagement might be fruitful along these lines…

    http://rootrealism.blogspot.com/2009/06/tortured-diplomacy.html

  • mydogoreo

    Caesar will do what Caesar will do. We can’t turn Caesar into the Catholic Church. it will always disappoint. You are disappointed, Mark. Why?

    Let’s work to purify the Church by purifying ourselves. Throwing stones at Caesar is fruitless but it’s a great way for Satan to keep us busy and frustrated.

  • Erin Manning

    Earlier today Brian wrote:

    “Let me ask you this: In your eyes, are the men who waterboarded three al Qaeda leaders to try to save lives after a vicious attack on this country no better than the agents of some future Caesar waterboarding three bishops in order to try to force them to reveal the names of the members of their flocks so that they can be rounded up and executed?”

    The way you have phrased the question gives me some insight into what you are thinking, here. It is not my job to determine whether those waterboarding suspected terrorists are “no better” than those waterboarding suspected bishops. In fact, it is my job as a Christian to believe fervently that I myself am the chief of sinners, and that while the plank of my sinfulness protrudes from my optical organs I may not judge the specks in anybody else’s.

    Now, if you had asked “Is the torture of waterboarding three terrorists the same evil act as the torture of waterboarding three bishops?” I could easily answer “Yes.” I am not permitted to judge the heart of any man; but the Church calls what is evil, evil and what is good, good, and I may imitate her in doing likewise.

    In fact, the way you have framed the question reveals something else: you do believe that waterboarding is putatively evil when done to some people (bishops) but not to others (suspected terrorists). If it is not torture, than why would it be evil to do it to anybody against their will, whether bishops, terrorists, liturgists, or apologeticists? And if it is torture, then how can it be legitimate to do it to people you hate or fear (e.g., suspected terrorists) but not to people you do not (bishops, etc.?).

    The fact of the matter is that Christ did not command us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors only so long as they’re not Islamic terrorists, in which case, it’s fine to suffocate them to the brink of death by drowning and continue to do so repeatedly until they give us information which is quite likely to be false, so long as we are clear that they aren’t really the sort of people Christ had in mind when He commanded us to love our enemies. Like most Americans, I abhor the evil that terrorists have done and continue to do, but I don’t think that gives us license to chuck all Christian principles out the window and come up with torture methods which aren’t quite as visibly gruesome as those used in past ages, and then argue that these things aren’t realio trulio torture, because we’ve decided to narrow the definition to the point of pretending that there really isn’t any way to decide what torture actually is aside from an ex cathedra pronouncement.

  • Jacob S

    “The waterboarding of the three al Qaeda leaders was not done on a whim. Say what you want about the “torture memos”, but they are clear evidence of people struggling with what to do in extraordinary circumstances. Easy for the sanctimonious to condemn after the fact.”

    Well yes. But here’s the thing, it is easy for the sanctimonious to condemn after the fact.

    Doubtless these people made a hard choice, etc. etc. But just as doubtless, at least according to Church teaching, they were wrong. Now, years later, it seems like it would be easy for us, and them, to admit it.

    Look man, no one is saying (well, ok some people are, but most reasonable people aren’t saying) that every single person who was involved in water-boarding is a rotten-to-the-core piece of garbage that is condemned to Hell no matter what. But it shouldn’t be that hard, after the fact, to realize that the actions were wrong, to say that we should learn from our mistakes, and not torture anyone else.

    We can’t change the past and hindsight sees 20/20 and all that. But we should take advantage of our 20/20 hindsight, aye?

  • Carl

    War happens when two parties are either taking or protecting something.

    War ends when one side has forced the other into submission.

    Merriam-Webster torture definition:
    The infliction of intense agony or pain in a process of coercing another.

    Anguish of body or mind, agony.

  • godescalc

    “…appears to be aimed at suppressing the Republican vote at a time when every vote is needed against the Party of Death.”

    I can’t believe that someone’s responding to “torture is wrong” by cavilling about the Republican vote. I mean, that’s grotesque. Don’t you feel even a little ashamed of yourself?

    Also, the “unorthodoxy” thing: it is clear that such people aren’t talking about Catholic orthodoxy, but about some higher, holier orthodoxy, of which Catholicism – as long as it doesn’t complain too much about torture – is simply a commendable subset.

    (Disclaimer: not American, don’t really understand your culture and party politics which largely look insane to me, &c.)

  • Carl

    Mark Shea has expressed plenty of judgments upon others on this topic.

    My bet is that most people opining on this subject of torture have no idea of law enforcement or of military techniques. I would also venture to say that neither of the recent Pope’s who made personal opinions about the Iraq war knew all of the details behind the decisions to go to war. And neither do we as common citizens!

    So that being said how does an average person say

  • godescalc

    “they were not punishing or coercing.”

    I can’t help but note that the issue of punishment is implicit in a good chunk of the justifications for torturing alleged terrorists. If there weren’t a punitive aspect, why contrast waterboarding terrorists with waterboarding bishops? Why worry about innocent people getting tortured? (This is the rational response, but I’m not sure how anyone can take the “no punishment involved” thing seriously, to be honest.)

    I am assuming that the “or coercing” is some kind of spelling error or something, because the idea of torturing someone into giving information in a non-coercive manner doesn’t really make sense.

  • antigon

    Dear Mr. Shea:

    Don’t think we can’t see through your ruse. It is obvious that “Brian English” & these various other namesakes are but a black Shea operation of supporters who post drivel in order to vindicate the charges of your post. I mean, really, what is the practical point of morality?

    But the ruse is too obvious. Clearly no one with a modicum of self-respect, even if they thought such nonsense, would be ready to reveal it publicly.

    Just in case, however, keep the trumpet playing. Again and again. Orks may object to the music of civilization at first, but with a little admonitive teaching, and Grace, some come to appreciate it over time.

  • Mark Shea

    I can’t help but note that the issue of punishment is implicit in a good chunk of the justifications for torturing alleged terrorists.

    Precisely. Every time you point out the torture and abortion are both gravely immoral, somebody pipes up and says, “But babies are innocent!” That logic only makes sense if you are assuming that the purpose of torture is to punish the guilty. If the *sole* purpose of torture is just to get info, then the guilt or innocence of the victim has no bearing on the question. This is something that has not yet dawned on Catholic torture defenders, who don’t see the train wreck they are helping to arrange when that gleaming efficient post-Christian state says, “All we care about are results, not punishment. And since we can get results much more quickly by crushing the testicles of the suspect’s *child* before his very eyes, we will do that. After all, as John Yoo (who provided the legal rationale for torture for the Bush Administration) put it when precisely that scenario was proposed to him: “I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.”

  • Jacob S

    …they were not punishing or coercing.

    Ya know, I once had an atheist argue that Christ couldn’t have risen from the dead because according to his dictionary death was permanent. Thus, if he rose, that meant he hadn’t really died in the first place. My response was the best electronic imitation of rolling my eyes that I could come up with.

    Something similar applies here. When you’re talking about torturing people – inflicting physical or mental anguish on people against their will- the intent doesn’t really matter. They are humans, even if they aren’t making that good a job at it, and there are things humans shouldn’t do to humans. But even if your coerce/punish thing mattered, trying to get people to talk when they don’t want to by torture sounds an awful lot like coercing information out them to me.

    And the thing about seer training is that those people are volunteers – they more or less asked to go through it to prepare them for what our enemies would do to them.

  • Brian English

    “Now, if you had asked “Is the torture of waterboarding three terrorists the same evil act as the torture of waterboarding three bishops?” I could easily answer “Yes.” I am not permitted to judge the heart of any man; but the Church calls what is evil, evil and what is good, good, and I may imitate her in doing likewise.”

    This is our fundamental disagreement. The waterboarding of three terrorist leaders to try to save lives is not evil. The waterboarding of three bishops so that their flocks can be rounded up and executed is evil. Claiming that the physical act of waterboarding ends the discussion is just not persuasive. If Just War Doctrine justifies killing someone in a war, it certainly can justify waterboarding a terrorist leader during a war to try to prevent an attack on innocent people.

    “In fact, the way you have framed the question reveals something else: you do believe that waterboarding is putatively evil when done to some people (bishops) but not to others (suspected terrorists). If it is not torture, than why would it be evil to do it to anybody against their will, whether bishops, terrorists, liturgists, or apologeticists? And if it is torture, then how can it be legitimate to do it to people you hate or fear (e.g., suspected terrorists) but not to people you do not (bishops, etc.?).”

    First, there was nothing “suspected” about the three terrorist leaders who were waterboarded. The idea that we waterboarded people randomly to try to determine if they were terrorist leaders is false.

    Second, intent and circumstances matter. If in one instance I violently shove an old-lady in front of a speeding bus, while in another I violently shove an old lady out of the path of a speeding bus, in both instances I have violently shoved an old lady. Are my actions the same morally?

    “The fact of the matter is that Christ did not command us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors only so long as they’re not Islamic terrorists, in which case, it’s fine to suffocate them to the brink of death by drowning and continue to do so repeatedly until they give us information which is quite likely to be false, so long as we are clear that they aren’t really the sort of people Christ had in mind when He commanded us to love our enemies.”

    Erin, we all know the Church does not interpret Christ’s admonition to love our enemies in the all-encompassing way you present it here. The Church has developed a doctrine under which we are permitted to kill our enemies. The Church itself has used, or approved the use of, torture when the Church concluded it was necessary to protect the faithful and society.

    “Like most Americans, I abhor the evil that terrorists have done and continue to do, but I don’t think that gives us license to chuck all Christian principles out the window and come up with torture methods which aren’t quite as visibly gruesome as those used in past ages, and then argue that these things aren’t realio trulio torture, because we’ve decided to narrow the definition to the point of pretending that there really isn’t any way to decide what torture actually is aside from an ex cathedra pronouncement.”

    Who is talking about license to chuck all Christian principles out the window?

    And it is interesting to note that when B16 had an opportunity to raise this issue directly with the Dark Lord himself in 2008, he did not. However, Obama and Pelosi got lectures on abortion and Obama was handed a binder containing a Vatican statement on bioethics.

  • Brian English

    “. But it shouldn’t be that hard, after the fact, to realize that the actions were wrong, to say that we should learn from our mistakes, and not torture anyone else.”

    Why was the waterboarding of three terrorist leaders to try to save lives wrong? What have we learned, after the fact, that somehow changes the morality of the original decision?

    Once one of these truck bombs or cargo bombs actually goes off (and one will soon) and hundreds of people are killed, if we capture an al Qaeda leader shortly thereafter, do you think name, rank and serial number will be sufficient if we have other intelligence indicating additional attacks are coming?

  • Tony

    I’ve never commented on your posts before, but I have read plenty of them. I always love reading what you have to say because you put Catholic teaching FIRST. One comment above mentioned that you brought out people who are American FIRST and then give consideration to the Magisterium. So, thank you for the things you write, how you write, and why you write. As someone who is about to go into seminary and seeing a large number of people who disregard the teaching of the Church especially on moral issues (even my fellow Catholics in graduate school here at BC!) it gives me hope to see people like you defending the Faith out in the world.

  • Thomas

    Mark,

    You said it perfectly, clearly, and succinctly. And much more charitably than I would have in your place.

    What I can’t understand is how these people can possibly call themselves Catholics, when their allegiance is obviously to the secular state. They’re just like the liberal-minded pseudo-Catholics who contradict Church teaching when it conflicts with their own agenda, because they’re doing THE SAME THING while patting themselves on the back for their “unflenching orthodoxy.”

    Seriously, since when are heretics orthodox? (yes, Americanism is a heresy, as is obstinately supporting positions that contradict Church teaching)

  • fishman

    ” think a lot of it is a matter of style, tone, etc rather than real substance.

    At times you do a type of writing that is not clearly placed in any of the usual categories regularly encountered, and so it can seem disagreeable even if the underlying point is agreeable. Further, your underlying point often does not fit any of the expected or comfortable molds, thus also making it seem disagreeable.

    Then again, what do I know. No one in their right mind would ever pay me to write anything, that is for sure, and if they did no one would read it. At least the disagreement proves someone reads what you write.”

    I quoted this in it’s entirety because I so whole heartily agree.
    It is , i dare say the highest complement I’ve ever seen given a modern writer especially on the internet. I am still considering the idea of ‘torture’, which is of coarse wrong. I think one component that no one has mentioned is that much of this is done without trial, with no evidence of guilt. The state has a right to self defense and in some cases may even have a right to execute criminals. It has the right to imprison criminals and punish them and depending on who you talk to all forms of punishment might be classified and torture , but that is different topic. Certainly it has no such right until someone is convicted of a crime. One of the often missed sins of the bush era ( and continued by the Oboama administration) is the use of the ‘enemy combatant’ status to mean ‘no right to trial, or due process’.

    One might debate for instance if solitary confinement ( and for how long) constitutes torture, there should be not debate the punishment ( including the deprivation of ones freedom, or loss of property) without strong assurance of Guilt,is a crime against the human person and in the same way against humanity itself.

  • Brian English

    “I can’t believe that someone’s responding to “torture is wrong” by cavilling about the Republican vote. I mean, that’s grotesque. Don’t you feel even a little ashamed of yourself?”

    Not even a little.

    That comment was not directed at the issue of whether the waterboarding of three terrorist leaders was right or wrong.

    My point regarding vote suppression relates to the fact that this country is at a critical stage on the abortion issue. We have the most pro-abortion president we have ever had and, despite the GOP gains earlier this month, his party still holds the majority in the Senate.

    If Obama wins re-election and the Democrats maintain their advantage in the Senate (or, God forbid, increase it) Obama is going to end up appointing four or five members of the Supreme Court. If that happens, within a few years EVERY restriction on abortion, including the partial birth abortion ban, will be overturned, and those issues will not be addressed again for decades.

    In light of these circumstances, I find the obsession of some Catholic writers with the waterboarding of three terrorist leaders 7-8 years misguided, at best.

  • Brian English

    “Don’t think we can’t see through your ruse. It is obvious that “Brian English” & these various other namesakes are but a black Shea operation of supporters who post drivel in order to vindicate the charges of your post. I mean, really, what is the practical point of morality?”

    I hate to disappoint you, but I am, in fact, a real person. And I also post under my real name, unlike some people.

    ” Orks may object to the music of civilization at first, but with a little admonitive teaching, and Grace, some come to appreciate it over time.”

    Typical. Referring to fellow Catholics as twisted, demonic creatures. And the fact that you refer to “Orks” instead of “Orcs” says a great deal about you.

  • Brian English

    ” If the *sole* purpose of torture is just to get info, then the guilt or innocence of the victim has no bearing on the question. This is something that has not yet dawned on Catholic torture defenders,”

    It hasn’t dawned on us because nobody believes that. The purpose is to get info to save the lives of innocent people, so intentionally harming other innocent people is not in the equation. Be careful out there on that slippery slope.

    “”All we care about are results, not punishment. And since we can get results much more quickly by crushing the testicles of the suspect’s *child* before his very eyes, we will do that. After all, as John Yoo (who provided the legal rationale for torture for the Bush Administration) put it when precisely that scenario was proposed to him: “I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.”

    (1) Such a horrendous thing never occurred.

    (2) Bush never contemplated doing such a horrible thing.

    (3) No one in their right mind would support committing that type of atrocity.

  • Andy

    And the fact that you refer to “Orks” instead of “Orcs” says a great deal about you.

    That he plays Warhammer 40k and not Dungeons and Dragons? The filthy heretic.

  • Brian English

    “And the thing about seer training is that those people are volunteers – they more or less asked to go through it to prepare them for what our enemies would do to them.”

    Actually, waterboarding would be a huge improvement in the treatment by the Jihadists of captured troops.

  • Andy

    Mark,

    For future reference, every single one of your essays on this topic should be accompanied by Zippy Catholic’s Catalog of Failed Arguments.

    http://zippycatholic.blogspot.com/2010/02/catalog-of-failed-arguments.html

    It would just save a lot of time instead of going over arguments that have been demolished years ago.

  • Rich Browner

    Watching Brian English comment ad nauseum is actually becoming humorous. I skip most of what he has to say now and simply chuckle that he even continues to try.

    Mark Shea has the truth on his side, and all the words in the world wont change this.

  • Carl

    A lie is a lie. Even if you lie about a surprise birthday party—it’s a lie.
    This issue is really about having the right to know. Does the birthday person have the right to know that a surprise party is being set-up for them.

    Torture is Torture. Whether you submit voluntarily to torture or not the person performing the torture act is as guilty as is the volunteer.

    Murder is murder. Physician assisted suicide is murder, both the doctor and the patient are guilty. And this act is getting awfully close to the unforgivable sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

  • Brian English

    “That he plays Warhammer 40k and not Dungeons and Dragons? The filthy heretic.”

    No, it means Antigon has not graduated to reading big boy books yet.

    Orks is used in dreadful science fiction and the Warhammer games.

    Orcs is used in books written by this guy named Tolkien. You should look them up. They are very good.

  • Brian English

    “Watching Brian English comment ad nauseum is actually becoming humorous. I skip most of what he has to say now and simply chuckle that he even continues to try.”

    The sign of a true intellectual — don’t bother engaging anyone’s arguments, just chuckle and marvel at how superior you are.

  • Cord Hamrick

    PREFATORY NOTE TO MARK SHEA: In the following posts, I will write about Mark Shea in the third person, rather than addressing him directly in the second person. Mark, if you read this, I apologize for doing so. But there’s one of you and a lot more folks who aren’t you reading this, and I didn’t want to write every sentence twice. So please understand that by “talking about you as if you weren’t here,” I’m not intending any disrespect. It’s just for brevity.

    Prudence Befitting Conservatives

    Y’know, I think Mark is probably right about waterboarding and the need of the U.S., and of conservatives in the U.S., to recoil from some of the Bush 43 policies on interrogation. They already have reason to recoil from certain domestic policies, so this is not unprecedented for them. If they wish, they can write off their original acceptance of waterboarding as a too-furious overreaction to 9/11.

    But, while one ought not to coddle captured jihadists, and while such dirtbags ought not, as a matter of consistency, receive all the same benefits as lawful combatant POW’s, it seems wise to me to put waterboarding as just slightly outside what we’re willing to do to extract intel, rather than (as is currently the case) just slightly inside.

    I think that conclusion sits better with the need to conserve what is good about the Founding Fathers and their Natural Law/Human Dignity revolution which not only acknowledged the obligation of governments to defend the unalienable rights of men, but divided and limited the powers with which they could do so.

    And there is the matter of precedent. Let us pretend for the moment that we’re all ideologically Domestic-Moderate, Foreign-Assertive Republicans. That makes us the kind of folks who’d feel safe with Bush/Cheney exercising the authority to waterboard, because they’re in certain ways “our kind of folks.” Fine: But that power, once precedent is in place, goes to the successors in that office. Will we be equally comfortable with that power in the hands of Obama? How about the next guy or gal? Or for those on the opposite side of the aisle: If you’re sanguine about Obama or Hillary Clinton sitting atop a government with that authority, would you be equally sanguine were it Newt Gingrich or John Boehner?

    So, as I said, I think Mark is probably right on the merits, but if perhaps he isn’t, then prudence dictates that we err on the side of caution, when it comes to granting that kind of power to the Federal Government.

    This kind of prudence is especially fitting in conservatives. We, after all, are the ones who’re habitually suspicious of new schemes to “solve Problem X once and for all” and to perfect humanity and to otherwise immanentize the eschaton. It is left-liberals/progressives who habitually come up with harebrained schemes to solve social problems long known to be unsolvably rooted in human nature, and don’t mind that their harebrained schemes break all the rules in doing so.

    While it is unfair to characterize willingness-to-waterboard in precisely that way, I do think it borrows from the left/progressive perspective in this way: It wants so badly to achieve a desired good that it’s willing to bend the rules either very close to, or past, the breaking point.

    So I think it prudent, and thus more conservative in temperament, to pull back a bit.

    …continued…

  • Cord Hamrick

    …continuing…

    On The Merits

    Now in arguing for this change in policy, Mark takes a different approach, arguing from Church teaching that torture is intrinsically evil and that waterboarding is obviously torture.

    I think there are logic problems with the “intrinsic evil” issue, but they trace back to larger problems with the philosophical underpinning of morality. If the Church tells me “don’t be consequentialist,” I’ll not be consequentialist…but sometimes it confuses me when I posit (for the sake of clarifying the argument) extreme-but-relevant scenarios and find that to take any approach other than what Shea assures me is “consequentialist” leads to absurd results. There must be logical consistency in there somewhere, but Mark seems rather more casual about the absence of that consistency than I am.

    But at least when Mark says these things, he is arguing on the merits. He is trying to form a syllogism which, if it all holds together, wins the debate on pure reason alone. Very good, very constructive, kudos to him.

    BUT…,

    I do think Mark has become the Ann Coulter or the Keith Olberman of Catholic Apologetics, and I think that’s a shame. There is a better way.

    Tone of Voice

    Mark Shea has developed an increasingly consistent tone-of-voice in his writing, and it is not, shall we say, in the spirit of St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa, or of St. Francis of Assisi remonstrating with the Ayubid Sultan. Mark Shea is Coulter-ish or Olberman-ish in that his every stylistic element is red meat to those he has already convinced, and bitter gall to those he has not.

    I suppose that St. Paul’s joke that the Judaizers ought to emasculate themselves plays a large part in Mark’s justification for this style…or maybe he is emulating St. Jerome against Helvidius. Certainly these two examples illustrate that particularly brutal zings against one’s opponent in a debate are not necessarily impediments to eventual canonization. (We’re rooting for you, Mark.)

    But mitigating against that, there’s always The Rock (not the wrestler) with his admonition to defend the hope that is within us with “gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15, using the word apologia: The touchstone verse for all Christian Apologists.)

    Whatever else one says about Mark Shea’s style, it ain’t gentle. But then neither was St. Paul against the Judaizers. Hmm.

    Perhaps these can be reconciled by the strategy of “being all things to all men,” as Paul did when he was “a Pharisee” being persecuted for his “belief in the resurrection of the dead” in one instance, and became nearly a pagan when addressing the Athenians “Men of Athens! I see that you are in every way very religious!”

    But it is hard to be all things to all men when posting an online essay. One cannot say, “If you’re XYZ, please read Version 1 of my essay, which is intended for you; but if you’re PDQ, please read Version 2, since Version 1 will only irritate you.”

    So Mark is stuck being one thing to all men: His essay will necessarily have one consistent “voice.” Well, we can see which tone-of-voice Mark selected for this topic. Is it a good thing that he has opted for the Olberman/Coulter voice?

    I don’t think it is.

    There are several groups of people who could read Mark’s anti-waterboarding arguments:

    1. People who already agree with Mark;
    2. People who aren’t sure what they think; and,
    3. People who currently disagree with Mark.

    …continued…

  • Pat B

    I recognize the fact that terrorists are bad guys who want to kill me, my family, and my dog, but that does not mean that we can commit mortal sins in order to combat them. If we accept consequentialism in one scenario, then we accept it in all. If a terrorist demanded that we murder an innocent person and threatened to detonate a nuke if we refused, we could not kill the innocent person no matter how many lives that action might save. I am in no way trying to judge the souls of torture supporters. I would bet that most of them are perfectly nice but misguided people. May God bless you all.

  • Cord Hamrick

    …continuing…

    I think it important to break these groups down into sub-groups:

    1. People who already agree with Mark, who…
    a. Don’t mind his tone;
    b. Are scandalized by his tone and want to dissociate themselves from it;

    2. People who aren’t sure what they think, who…
    a. Are open to being convinced, and can be convinced by logic;
    b. Are open to being convinced, but are not logical thinkers and who are most effectively swayed by propaganda;

    3. People who currently disagree with Mark, who…
    a. Are open to being shown they’re wrong, and can be convinced by logic, even if badly-presented;
    b. Are open to being shown they’re wrong, and can be convinced by logic, but if you get their defensive hackles raised, they’ll reflexively close their minds against it;
    c. Can’t be convinced by logic but who can be browbeaten into agreeing by a sufficiently nasty tongue-lashing;
    d. Don’t give a frog’s fat fanny about logic, and who simply won’t be convinced no matter what, because they care more about holding their current opinion than about truth.

    Now, what is the effect of Mark’s style on all these folks?

    1.a. No problem;
    1.b. Not likely to change their views just because Mark’s being nasty, so probably no problem;

    2.a. If they can put aside their distaste over Mark’s tone, they may be convinced by those elements of his essay that constitute argument on the merits;
    2.b. Likely to be convinced by Mark’s vituperative tone, and even join in…until the next bit of propaganda sways them in some other direction. But this seems a bit like using the Devil’s tools.

    3.a. Much like 2.a.: If they can put aside their distaste over Mark’s tone, they may be convinced by those elements of his essay that constitute argument on the merits;
    3.b. Will not be convinced, because Mark’s tone is counter-productive and causes them to “close their ears”;
    3.c. Much like 2.b.: They can be browbeaten into agreeing with Mark because there is “a good deal of the spaniel in them.” As with 2.b., I don’t think this is wise, and may be immoral;
    3.d. Won’t be convinced no matter what: They’re dishonest.

    Benefits of a Slight Change-of-Approach

    I think what’s missing in Mark’s tone is any sense that he retains respect for the persons who retain honest disagreement. He seems instead to relegate them all to Category 3.d., which is exactly the category they should be in if they really don’t give a damn about the truth. But if they remain in disagreement with Mark for more creditable reasons, they’re going to be justly offended by being lumped in this category.

    In particular, folk who are new to this debate, who have never heard any “side” to the debate other than the consequentialist argument (and that, only as an unstated assumption underlying what they’ve heard about the lives saved by waterboarding KSM & Co.), are likely to arrive here, receive a browbeating from Mark Shea, and assume Mark’s another unhinged leftist who, because he is incapable of making rational points, opts for invective instead.

    (Or so I suspect. The truth of that suspicion can be confirmed by Mark himself: Have you found, Mark, that some folk mistake you for a leftist, when they hear you argue this way?)

    I think dialing back the tone-of-voice would be beneficial. Were Mark to do so, the aforementioned groups would react differently:

    1.a. No problem;
    1.b. No problem (but these folk will be left with more respect for Mark than with the previous tone-of-voice);

    2.a. No problem;
    2.b. Possibly less convinced. But that’s what you sacrifice by not using the Devil’s tools;

    3.a. Much like 2.a.: Better convinced than before;
    3.b. Possibly convinced, where they wouldn’t have been convinced before;
    3.c. Much like 2.b.: Possibly less convinced, but I still think it’s a good sacrifice, in order to win clean;
    3.d. Won’t be convinced no matter what: They’re dishonest.

    Looking at this comparison, I am even more convinced that Mark should dial it back, if he can bring himself to do so.

    (But it’s so satisfying to lay into your debate opponents with such gusto!)

    Even so.

    (But it’s rhetorically convenient to lambaste folk on the right, so as to increase my street cred as someone “nonpartisan.”)

    Even so.

    …continued…

  • Cord Hamrick

    …continuing…

    To Sum Up

    I used to think that the wisest course was to allow waterboarding in extreme circumstances.

    Now I put the “thou shalt not cross” line on the other side of waterboarding, excluding it.

    Mark Shea helped me arrive at this view, but since I had arrived at my original view with no ill-intent and after (I had thought) a reasonable amount of due consideration, I was pretty irked at being treated like a scumbag right-out-of-the-box whenever I read his essays on this topic. I had to swallow my pride and my defensiveness, and dig through a lot of stylistic dross, before I concluded that there was a point worth consideration in there.

    And as I said before, I don’t think the consequentialism “thou shalt not do evil that good come from it” is entirely safe from challenge. (If anybody cares I can expand on that, but this is a pretty wordy bit of writing already. Sorry about that, but, hey: It’s me.)

    So that’s why I fall back on the “prudence dictates that we err on the side of caution” view, and articulate non-waterboarding as a more conservative view.

    I realize that “err on the side of conscience” can be taken two ways: Do we err on the side of caution regarding our consciences, and not waterboard? Or do we err on the side of caution regarding people’s lives, and waterboard?

    But my conscience is my responsibility. The outcome is God’s. So I resolve that ambiguity in opposition to waterboarding.

  • Brian English

    ” If a terrorist demanded that we murder an innocent person and threatened to detonate a nuke if we refused, we could not kill the innocent person no matter how many lives that action might save.”

    But waterboarding three al Qaeda leaders is not the same thing as murdering an innocent person. In order for you have consequentialism, the underlying act has to be considered evil. I don’t believe that the waterboarding was.

  • Andy

    But waterboarding three al Qaeda leaders is not the same thing as murdering an innocent person.

    But I refuse to call it murder. Show me where the Church has infallibly declared the strangling someone with a bicycle tire is murder. That’s all I’m doing. I’m choking someone to death with a bicycle tire so that the terrorist won’t detonate the nuke. We live in a post 9-11 world, Brian. Stop being such a pansy.

  • Richard W Comerford

    Re: FM 32-64

    Within the Department of Defense the US Army is the proponent service for interrogation. It standards are found in FM 32-54. By Executive Order FM 32-54 is now the standard for all federal agencies. From the manual and relevant to this conversation are the following:

    Inhumane interrogation techniques whether formally titled “torture” or bearing some other title such as “enhanced interrogation” to include water boarding are both illegal and counter productive. Said techniques ruin the interrogation subject for proper intelligence exploitation.

    Or, in short, water boarding and other such stupidities gets good American soldiers killed, places innocent American citizens at risk.; and id a boon to the enemy’s recruiting efforts.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Brian English

    “But I refuse to call it murder. Show me where the Church has infallibly declared the strangling someone with a bicycle tire is murder. That’s all I’m doing. I’m choking someone to death with a bicycle tire so that the terrorist won’t detonate the nuke. We live in a post 9-11 world, Brian. Stop being such a pansy.”

    Andy, your logic never ceases to amaze me.

  • Brian English

    “Or, in short, water boarding and other such stupidities gets good American soldiers killed, places innocent American citizens at risk.; and id a boon to the enemy’s recruiting efforts.”

    Other than the conclusory allegations contained in the manual and in your statement above, do you have any evidence to support any of these claims? The last one strikes me as being particularly questionable since al Qaeda didn’t appear to have trouble getting recruits long before anyone knew about the waterboarding of KSM and friends.

    And by the way, you were in the military. You actually believe that KSM and his two partners in murder deserve to be treated like soldiers captured on the battlefield?

    What is your view on the execution of the six Nazi saboteurs during WW II?

    What about the interrogation techniques used against the U-Boat crew members following Operation Teardrop in April 1945?

  • Mark Shea

    for your gentle and charitable remarks. Particularly moving to me is the fact that you get it about the important thing: Torture is evil and it is better to err on the side of caution. So long as we agree there, I have no problem at all with your observations about my tone, which I am inclined to agree with. My only complaint has been with those who are far more concerned with gnats like my tone than with camels like drowning, beating, suffocating and freezing human beings to death. I do confess that there is probably a feedback loop at work as well (“The more these people continue to moan about their poor widdle feewings being hurt while they turn a blind eye to their own cheerleading for war crimes, the less inclined I shall feel to treat them with kid gloves.”) But yeah, you’re right that it probably turns a certain percentage of folks off.

    Thanks for being a good egg and voice of reason. Your notes heartened me greatly.

  • Richard W Comerford

    Re: KSM

    Approximately six months before KSM was captured by Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence Service (“ISI”)the very same ISI reported that it had killed KSM.Under torture KSM (Reportedly KSM was water boarded 183 times) confessed to every major terrorist incident committed by Jihadists over the past 20-years, to include incidents where the real perpetrators were known to Western Intelligence services. And, in so doing, KSM gave protection from prosecution to the real criminals.

    There is to date no credible evidence from an independent third party that KSM was a terrorist mastermind or even a member of AL Qaeda. There is, however, considerable evidence that KSM, whoever he is, has outsmarted and embarrassed the US Government.

    KSM’s confessions under torture were video and audio taped. When it was realized that his confessions were not credible and review authorities wanted to examine the tapes the CIA suddenly announced that the tapes had been lost.

    Right now only the official US Government torturers know what KSM actaully said under torture. These are the same official US Government torturers who claimed that by torture they has averted terrorist incidents. The official US Government torturers have not been able to explain the internal contradictions, indeed the sheer impossibilities, found in KSM’s purported confession.

    But that is the problem when our government places torturers on the pay roll. The torturers never have to explain anything. Just produce confessions.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    Since the USA following, the path of NAZI Germany, has descend into the use of inhumane and torturous techniques to gather information there has not been a single trained, credentialed and experienced American interrogation or intelligence professional to come forward and support the practice. Indeed quite the opposite. Would wide there is not a single major intelligence service that teaches its officers that torture or inhumane treatment is a viable interrogation technique.

    Only Jack Bay=uer can use torture save the world in a single 60-minute episode and with tiem left over for commercial breaks.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Brian English

    “Since the USA following, the path of NAZI Germany, has descend into the use of inhumane and torturous techniques to gather information”

    You actually believe that the Bush Administration = Heydrich and Company? If I grant you that for the sake of argument, when did that descent start in your view? In April 1945 with the Operation Teardrop interrogations? A CIA manual from 1963 also describes a procedure very similar to waterboarding. Was it then? What about the use of a primitive form of waterboarding in Vietnam?

    “there has not been a single trained, credentialed and experienced American interrogation or intelligence professional to come forward and support the practice. Indeed quite the opposite.”

    You would admit Richard, that active interrogation and intelligence professionals are not going to identify themselves and reveal what they have been doing?

    I do know that in a Time (or Newsweek) magazine article on the implementation of the interrogation procedures in the Army Manual, an unidentified senior interrogator indicated that the techniques in the Manual would be useless against terrorist leaders.

    “Would wide there is not a single major intelligence service that teaches its officers that torture or inhumane treatment is a viable interrogation technique.”

    That certainly is not true. The Saudis and Pakistanis don’t torture? The Russians don’t torture? And I mean real torture.

  • Richard W Comerford

    For some reason or another Operation Teardrop has made an appearance in the torture debate. Towards the end of WW II some Jack Bauer types came up with the idea that the Germans were going to fit V2 rockets on U Boats, sail across the Atlantic and bombard New York City with them.

    Even if true the V2 was not a very effective weapon and the day of the U Boat was past; but the idea sent the Jack Bauer types into a frenzy. The British and the American services investigated the fantasy but could not produce any credible evidence to support it.

    However the US Navy deployed a substantial force to intercept the submarines that purportedly were carrying the gigantic V2 rockets. The submarines were duly intercepted and sunk. There was no evidence that the submarines, which were in some cases engaged while on the surface, had gigantic V2 rockets strapped to their decks. But that did not satisfy the heroic Jack Bauer types.

    They decided to brutally torture teh prisoners to include a a surviving U Boat Captain. The torture got out of hand as it usually does. The subject either died under torture or from it effects immediately thereafter.

    Funny thing though. Hitler committed suicide in his bunker on 30 April 1945. The prisoners of war were tortured and at least one murdered after 30 April 1945.

    Pretty heroic stuff. Typical of the Jack Bauer types.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Brian English

    “Towards the end of WW II some Jack Bauer types”

    So there were Jack Bauer types almost 60 years before there was a Jack Bauer?

  • Pat B

    Mark: I already opposed torture before I read your writing on the subject. However you did change my mind on the matter of atomic bombings. I had previously tried the same sort of semantic rationalizations that many torture supporters use. (The Japanese weren’t really civilians etc.) You and your readers helped me to see the error of my consequentialist thinking. I can’t say that I always like your tone but you should know that people do listen to you. I certainly do.

  • Richard W Comerford

    Re: Popes and Councils

    For 2,000 years every time Pope or Council has addressed torture as a matter of morality and as a teaching issue for the entire Church it has been to condemn it as immoral. No exceptions. Indeed Pepe and Council have taught the entire Church as a point of morality that we must love our enemy, return good for evil, treat prisoners with kindness and humanity.

    Sadly too many American Catholics have received their moral code on this matter not from the Vicar of Christ; but from a television show titled “24′.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Mark Shea

    I do know that in a Time (or Newsweek) magazine article on the implementation of the interrogation procedures in the Army Manual, an unidentified senior interrogator indicated that the techniques in the Manual would be useless against terrorist leaders.

    If a half-remembered magazine article quotes a shadowy figure to support the use of torture and ignoring the Manual, that’s good enough for Mr. English. And they say he’s bent on rationalizing torture on the flimsiest of pretenses. O slanderous world!

    So there were Jack Bauer types almost 60 years before there was a Jack Bauer?

    Devastating! Comerford’s facts and logic are in ruins!

  • Mark Shea

    You would admit Richard, that active interrogation and intelligence professionals are not going to identify themselves and reveal what they have been doing?

    And yet you magically know and can state categorically that, all evidence to the contrary, they have not tortured anybody. How do we know? Because the people who stand to lose most if they are exposed as torturers say so. And the way we know it works is because the people who did it told us it worked just before they destroyed the tapes of their interrogation sessions that (according to them) yielded such important information and did not constitute torture.

    Talk about faith-based government.

  • Aaron

    No popes or councils in support of torture? You seem to have forgotten Innocent IV and the Council of Vienne. And as for doctors, you have to contend with SS. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Alphonsus Ligouri. All told they represent a half-millennium of theological consensus that is opposed but not simply overcome by other popes, councils, and theologians – not simply overcome, that is, in the limited cases of 1) punishment (here torture would mean sentences such as flogging and forms of mutilation) or 2) extracting information (but NOT confessions, there is enough magisterial witness to rule out extracting these). See a precis of relevant popes, councils, and theologians here.http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt119.html

    Cord, this is where your critique breaks down. You, along with Mark, assume that all parties to the Catholic debate are either a) consequentialist or b) correct, and thus hold to the only possible Catholic position that unequivocally condemns all instances of torture. The fact that you admit that some people will hold their consequentialist position honestly and thus be open to persuasion is a large step ahead of Mark’s analysis, but this does not fully make up for the blind spot covering c) Catholics who are trying to look at the whole scope of magisterial teaching on the topic and have identified specific uses of torture that remain open to theological debate – in Mark’s model it doesn’t matter which side of this debate you side with, because a mere recognition of its possibility has already drawn anathema.

    You’re right, Mark’s tone is especially ill-received because he seems to lump everyone who disagrees with him into the category of the dishonest consequentialist. But what has been most galling to me over the course of a few of his articles is that he exacerbates that stylistic misfortune with an insistence on picking only the low-hanging fruit – to the point of outright refusing the admission of more evidence. You mention having been convinced by the merits of his syllogism, but what happens when the major premise (that the magisterium has unqualifiedly declared torture an intrinsic evil) is exposed as insufficiently established (by the fact that it is lumped into a list with other evils which cannot possibly be intrinsically evil, as that would contradict, for one example, the magisterially protected and commonsensical right of nations to deport offending aliens)? Some who recognize that insufficiency have sought to clarify the matter by further recourse to the magisterium; one of those attempts at clarification resulted in the article I linked above. But Mark has neither addressed the alleged weakness of his syllogism nor the further magisterial evidence adduced (and, for the record, I question some parts of Fr. Harrison’s presentation, though I recognize he is doing honest and serious work). Rather, he sticks to deriding the blatant consequentialism that is thrown around (and here I’m with him, St. Jerome is a fine model) while pointedly ignoring anything that attempts to be something more. Thomas’ strength lay not simply dispassionate analysis; rather, it was located in presenting the strongest of his opponents arguments, not insulating himself by acknowledging only the weakest. I can’t speak for others, but I have found it hard to restrain myself in my criticism of these articles because despite the fact that Mark’s sentiments are good and he is certainly on the right pragmatic side if not theological, he nonetheless increasingly reveals himself as a member of the dishonest class of arguers who are not, in fact, open to persuasion by evidence or argument.

  • Richard W Comerford

    Neither Innocent IV nor the Council of Vienne taught the universal faithful as a matter of faith and morals that torture or the inhumane treatment of prisoners is moral, right or justifiable.

    God bless

    Richard W COmerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    Fray Nicholas Eymerich, a fourteenth century Dominican who composed the Directorium Inquisitorum, the first manual for interrogators, to help Inquisitors ferret out witches and heretics, noted that “torture is deceptive and ineffectual,” as a method of reaching the truth, since people were likely to say anything to stop the pain.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    RE: “It’s wrong and it doesn’t work”, according to interrogation expert Stuart Herrington.

    Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg…JuhMAU6I&C

    A retired Army Colonel, and professional interrogator, discusses this matter at length. He writes in part:

    “I served 30 years in the U.S. Army as an intelligence officer, which included extensive experience as an interrogator in Vietnam, in Panama and during the 1991 Gulf War. In the course of these sensitive missions, my teams and I collected mountains of excellent, verified information, despite the fact that we never laid a hostile hand on a prisoner. Had one of my interrogators done so, he would have been disciplined and most likely relieved of his duties.”

    This is very similar to what we were taught back in the Dark Ages. I am constantly amazed at who are the opponents and proponents of torture and water boarding.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Erin Manning

    …though I sincerely wish for both our sakes a trained moral theologian would show up, because I’m bound to get some of the terminology wrong. smilies/smiley.gif

    I think that some confusion is arising because of how you view the concept of an act. Your “shoving an old lady” example is illustrative. You see as the central act the shoving of the old lady; thus you are able to claim that intent and circumstances change the morality of the act from good (keeping her safe from the bus) to evil (pushing her in front of the bus on purpose). You left out neutral (inadvertently shoving her because you dropped your groceries and tripped on them) but I think the idea is clear.

    The thing is, in the moral realm the *act* is not “shoving an old lady,” as far as I can determine. The act is either a) saving an old lady (good), b) murdering an old lady (evil) or accidentally endangering an old lady (neutral, because the agent does not mean to harm or help the old lady, who is simply in the path of his fall). That each act involves “shoving an old lady” is not relevant to morality, any more than the fact that both abortion and miscarriage involve the death of an unborn human is relevant to the respective morality of each situation.

    If we boil the act of waterboarding down to its most essential element, it involves pouring water on someone’s face. Well, a person might try such an act to bring an unconscious person out of his or her faint (though that’s not the best thing to do) and the person clearly wouldn’t be guilty of waterboarding. Similarly, a person could intentionally drown his wife in the bathtub, and he wouldn’t be guilty of waterboarding, either, but of murder. The “pour water on the face” criteria simply can’t represent the totality of the act.

    We can clarify things by defining waterboarding further: waterboarding involves pouring a quantity of water into the face and nose of a person who is usually tilted on his back, in such a way as to cut off his ability to breathe and imitate all of the physical experiences of drowning. The next question is, is all waterboarding torture?

    I can think of three possible circumstances–there may be more–in which an act of waterboarding might *not* be torture. They are:

    a) Waterboarding someone who has given his express consent to the act for the purpose of being trained to withstand this torture by an enemy (e.g. SERE training);

    b) Waterboarding someone who has given his express consent to the act for the purpose of research, as in scientific or journalistic research–with appropriate safeguards for the person’s overall safety and ability to end the experiment at any time of his choosing; and

    c) Waterboarding someone who has given his express consent to the act for the perverse purpose of illicit pleasure; this act would still be gravely morally wrong, but the correct name of the sin is not torture, but masochism.

    I believe (though as always I’m subject to correction by trained moral theologians and the Church) that each of these specific examples can’t be considered torture for one, and only one reason: each involves the person being waterboarded giving his express and complete willful consent to the act, which is one thing that any definition of torture will preclude; that is, just as no person can murder himself (but only commit suicide), so can no person consent to his own torture–because the consent removes one of the defining characteristics of torture.

    The question then becomes, does waterboarding a terrorist to gain information, even information one hopes will save innocent lives, likewise place this act outside the realm of torture? No, it assuredly does not. The act itself inflicts pain and suffering, both physical and mental, on a bound, helpless person who has not in any way consented to the act, and who can only put an end to it, if, indeed, he can, by submitting to the unjust coercion of the will the act itself involves.

    In the example of the old woman, what determines the nature of the act (and thus its morality) is the intent of the actor toward the woman. Does he wish her to be safe (good)? Does he wish her harm (evil)? Did he not wish anything particular about her but only bump into her completely accidentally (neutral)? So, too, in the case of waterboarding, we have to consider the intent of the actors toward the person to be waterboarded. Are they, with the full consent of the person to be waterboarded, performing acts of training or research? Or are they inflicting the act upon a helpless, non-consenting person with the intent of producing enough pain, terror and suffering to get him to cooperate with them?

    Whether the actors wish to get the victim to give them information about terrorist plots, or whether they wish to exact revenge upon him, or whether they hope to produce fear in others, etc., if they are treating the victim as an *object* and not a *person* they have crossed the line into torture. And treating a person as a person means not directly and intentionally inflicting deliberate pain, terror and suffering upon that person–regardless of the end that the actors hope will be produced.

  • Richard W Comerford

    Back in the Dark Ages as a young paratrooper I was taught that torture was Un-American. It was something evil and perverse. The Nazis tortured. The Communists tortured. We were the good guys. Americans did not torture.

    Later, as a Special Forces soldier, we learned that the inhumane treatment of prisoners was in fact counter productive. Our instructors were very experienced Army interrogators and CIA Officers. Guys with 20 or 30 years of experience under their belts.

    Much later I found myself teaching the same principals to young soldiers. I have never run into an intelligence professional, a trained guy with years of experience, who thought that torture or any type of inhumane treatment produced concrete information from an interrogation subject which could be processed into actionable intelligence. When I asked Mr. Google he could not find one either.

    I note that until it became an article of faith among some political partisans no Americans advocated torture for any reason. This filth will destroy our country.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • random thought

    If Mark were really against torture he would stop writing these weak articles in which he does the same a priori judgments he accuses others of. This my friends is torture and as Mark is all too quick to point out without making any of the necessary distinctions and clarifications, is an intrinsic evil.

  • Mark

    “d. Don’t give a frog’s fat fanny about logic, and who simply won’t be convinced no matter what, because they care more about holding their current opinion than about truth.” – Cord

    Really Cord — Shea’s opinion + your conversion = truth? Besides, not everything that is logical is true (see universe expanding at an increasing rate) … besides most of the frogs I know are in pretty good shape.

    “Now I put the “thou shalt not cross” line on the other side of waterboarding, excluding it.” – Cord

    Does it really matter? Waterboarding can never be used again anyway since it has been exposed to our enemies as merely SIMULATED drowning. They now know that they have nothing to fear even if it were used (think Ray Kinsella trying to convince Terence Mann that the finger in his pocket was really a gun)

    Thousands of terrorists have been interrogated, however, waterboarding was only used a few times. Why do Mr. Shea and his Catholic division from the HufPo Red Army behave as though:

    – it was the rule rather than the very obvious rare exception it was?
    – it was and still is a major element on the GOP platform, when it never was and never will be?
    – is a big reason why many people vote Republican, when in reality, not one single person in the U.S. has ever voted Republican because of the (non) issue of waterboarding?

    Why is it that the uber-righteous love to lecture about “moral absolutes” like waterboarding but allow themselves a Get Out of Gitmo Free card when it comes to little details like the Church’s teaching on honesty and bearing false witness?

    I contend that it is not about “tone” but rather motive — and that motive in my opinion is that some folks want to have an excuse for not supporting the only pro-life political choice we have in America at this time and waterboarding / torture is that excuse.

    “And it is interesting to note that when B16 had an opportunity to raise this issue directly with the Dark Lord himself in 2008, he did not. However, Obama and Pelosi got lectures on abortion and Obama was handed a binder containing a Vatican statement on bioethics” – Brian English

    Well Brian, that would be because Pope Benedict XVI is a man of God pursuing truth via the virtues of discernment and prudence and not some straw man sniper interested in hysterically exaggerating political footballs for the sake of rationalizing his Bush Derangement Syndrome.

    BTW Brian, thank you for your indefatigable efforts.

  • Richard W Comerford

    In 1899 Pope Leo XIII (of Rerum Novarum fame) wrote to the then Primate of the American Catholic Church, Cardinal Gibbons, and warned the good Cardinal of a Heresy that he, leo, titled “Americanism”, wherein American Catholics would surrender points of Catholic faith and morals in order to better fit in with the larger American society. Cardinal Gibbons essentially circle filed the Papal Encyclical.

    Leo’s successor, Benedict XV, next wrote Cardinal Gibbons asking the Cardinal to do everything in his power to keep the USA out of WW I which he, Benedict, described as the suicide of Europe. Cardinal Gibbons formed the National Catholic War Board (forerunner of USCCB) to facilitate America;s entry into WW I.

    By 1968 when Pope Paul VI published Humanae Vitae the roots of Americanism had burrowed deep. American Catholics in great numbers heaped scorn upon the Vicar of Christ. And the result of this de facto revolt we can see all around us in broken lives, broken families and broken communities. (and when did you last hear a sermon condemning artificial contraception as evil?)

    The Church’s clear moral teaching for 2,000 years is that torture and inhumane treatment are evil under all conditions and circumstances; and indeed we must treat prisoners humanely. To publicly and stubbornly over time to proclaim otherwise is, objectively speaking, heresy.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • bill bannon

    I doubt that anyone is falling for your technique which is A.) to ignore that the Church teaches also by example and Herself used torture and B.) to repeat ad infinitum that the Church taught against it technically in texts and sporadically. Except from Mark, you are getting no amens because you are using salesman or lawyer tricks in the service of the Church.

  • bill bannon

    read Acts chapter 22 wherein a Roman tribune planned to scourge Paul “to examine him”. Are we to believe that the Roman army over and over again scourged people and never got the truth….but they kept it up as a policy anyway. If torture is wrong, it should not matter whether it works or not. You are being consequentialist about whether it works or not while telling people not to be consequentialist about torture.

  • Richard W Comerford

    The Roman Catholic Church is not the Church of Later day Saints. It is the Church of present day sinners. Sadly every Commandment is broken on a regular basis by Bishops, priests and lay leaders. But just because Catholics have committed great sins like engaging in or trying to make excuse for torture does not make torture right. The Church, despite the sins of its members, is still guided by the Holy Spirit when it teaches the faithful on matters of faith and morals.

    The clear and constant teaching of the Church for 2,000 years is that torture is always evil under all conditions and circumstances. Objectively speaking only heretics claim otherwise.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • bill bannon

    you are letting on. Therefore you are always hiding part of what you know and you just did again in your answer. And the Church is only guided in morals in a perfectly sure manner when it exercises infallibility. Pope Leo X affirmed burning heretics at the stake in condemning Luther’s contrary position in Exsurge Domini in 1520….thus he taught a torturous death for error and thus he was wrong in morals because the Bull was not infallible and since it was not, the Holy Spirit was not guaranteed to be therein. I believe in the rare use of torture as for example on a criminal who will not disclose where a dying child is being held…..OT….” evil is driven out by bloody lashes and a scourging to the innermost being.”……”a rod for the back of fools”.

  • Richard W Comerford

    The guru for the Catholic torture advocates is a retired seminary professor who is apparently without internet access. The guru purports that Pope Innocent IV published the papal bull Ad extirpanda, which purportedly authorized the use of torture by the Inquisition.

    However a quick consultation with Mr. Google reveals that:

    * The words torture and inquisition do not appear in the Bull

    * The Bull is not a teaching om faith and morals directed to all the faithful.

    * The Spanish Inquisition had not started yet.
    the purported

    Upon examination the claim of the purported moral acceptability for torture is built upon a tissue of lies. These lies have corrupted our country with the filth that is torture.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • bill bannon

    …..not Ad Extirpanda.

  • Richard W Comerford

    The Papal Bull Exsurge Domini issued in 1520 does not advocate the use of torture. Consult Mr Google.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • bill bannon

    the words “torture” and “Inquisition” did not have to appear in Ad Extirpanda but it instructed in other words that such be carried out.
    Here is the section from new advent on the matter…in the Inquisition article:

    ” the death of condemned heretics. Not so the succeeding popes. In the Bull “Ad exstirpanda” (1252) Innocent IV says:

    When those adjudged guilty of heresy have been given up to the civil power by the bishop or his representative, or the Inquisition, the podest

  • Richard W Comerford

    The Holy Roman Emperor banned torture in Italy. Consult Mr. Google.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Carl

    First, only God determines unjust war. CCC1861 Entrust judgment to the justice and mercy of God.

    Murder is always Murder. Abortion. There

  • Richard W Comerford

    The Catholic Encyclopedia found in New Advent (and which is frequently quoted by advocates for the intrinsic evil known as torture) was published around 1913 and has not been updated. A little research shows that the 1913 Encyclopedia writers were relying on Protestant historians for their summary of Ad Extirpanda.

    A brief consultation with Mr. Google will provide a good English translation of the document which shows that the words torture and inquisition do not appear in it and that it is not a teaching document on morals aimed at the entire Church.

    Advocating for an intrinsic evil like torture can be confusing.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • bill bannon

    opposition by Luther to burning heretics at the stake and says that his view against burnings are “against the Catholic Faith”.
    You are using in both bulls the trick of a salesman….ie that the actual word itself….”torture” does not occur physically even though you know both bulls supported a torturous death for heretics without their using the actual word….”torture”. How can you possibly believe that God is OK with your use of deceptive technicalities in matters of truth? Show these above posts to your pastor and ask his view of the morality of whatbyoubare doing.

  • Richard W Comerford

    “But sleep deprivation and insects being placed in an enemy combatant

  • Richard W Comerford

    Catholic advocates for intrinsic evil frequently point to Papal Bulls as purported justification for torture. However a brief consultation with Mr. Google reveals that the word torture does not appear in the Papal Bulls that purportedly teach that torture is moral, right and just. When this is pointed out the Catholic advocates for intrinsic evil then purport that there is a secret meaning in the Bulls which only they can apparently see.

    Perhaps the Popes wrote their Bulls using invisible ink?

    The continued advocacy of any intrinsic evil will over time corrupt the human heart.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • bill bannon

    You can easily read Exsurge Domini which supports torture without ever using the word torture. If I say, ” Tom….keep smacking John in the head until he tells us where the money is.”. I have not used the word “torture” at all but I nevertheless furthered torture by Tom. This is your excuse for Exsurge Domini….it never uses the word “torture” technically.
    Your whole approach then to papal bulls begins with the ploy that they did not actually use the word “torture” even if they supported burning at the stake. When called on that ploy, you switch to finding Protestant writers being behind the Catholic encyclopedia as to Ad Extirpanda.

  • Marthe L

    This is more a question than a comment

  • bill bannon

    Read John T. Noonan Jr.’s “A Church That Can and Cannot Change” on the topic of slavery and Catholic Popes and Theologians.
    When looked at closely, the Popes who opposed slavery sporadically did not oppose the exceptions made by theologians in the universities who permitted 4 reasons wherein slavery was not evil. We take employment for granted in the capitalist sense ever since the industrial revolution. But prior to mass consuming and mass production through factory assembly lines, the entire world was different in terms of survival. See also God giving chattel slavery in Leviticus 25:44 onward to the Jews in that agrarian, non mass producing world. In the 17th century for example, the Catholic theologian, Tomas Sanchez, told parents they did not sin if they sold one of their children into servitude in order to feed their other children. Prior to factories and the employment they provided to millions, men who owed money would enter servitude to pay their debts in agrarian work.

  • Brian English

    “If a half-remembered magazine article quotes a shadowy figure to support the use of torture and ignoring the Manual, that’s good enough for Mr. English. And they say he’s bent on rationalizing torture on the flimsiest of pretenses. O slanderous world!”

    http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1894432-2,00.html.

    Feel better now Mark?

    Here is the quote from the interrogator:

    The CIA turned down a request from TIME for comment about current interrogation techniques and the Army Field Manual. But some agency veterans say the manual, while serving as a good starting point, is ultimately inadequate against hardened al-Qaeda operatives. “There’s a feeling among [some current agency staffers] that the Army Field Manual is useless against the really bad guys,” says a retired CIA staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Typically, these guys have been through brutal torture by the authorities in their own countries

  • Brian English

    “Later, as a Special Forces soldier, we learned that the inhumane treatment of prisoners was in fact counter productive. Our instructors were very experienced Army interrogators and CIA Officers. Guys with 20 or 30 years of experience under their belts.”

    Inhumane treatment of prisoners is a different matter. What about the interrogation of spies or saboteurs? Was that ever discussed?

    Do you consider the execution of the six Nazi saboteurs during WW II a war crime? You appear to think the “shock” interrogation techniques used against some of the captured crew members following Operation Teardrop were a war crime. Am I correct about that?

  • Brian English

    “Mr. Shea and his Catholic division from the HufPo Red Army”

    I am stealing that line.

    “I contend that it is not about “tone” but rather motive — and that motive in my opinion is that some folks want to have an excuse for not supporting the only pro-life political choice we have in America at this time and waterboarding / torture is that excuse.”

    Sadly, I think you are correct about this. As Hadley Arkes indicated in an article last week, the GOP is clearly the pro-life party in this country. People may hate that, but trying to avoid it by suggesting there is a moral equivalence between the waterboarding of three terrorist leaders that took place 7-8 years ago and the 1.2 million abortions that take place every year is shameful. In fact, I think sinful is a better description.

  • Richard W Comerford

    For several hundred years some of our Protestant brothers and sisters have claimed that the Catholic Church via obscure Papal Bulls taught that it was moral, right and acceptable for Catholcis to torture Protestants and others. Our brothers and sisters claimed that the Bulls specifically introduced torture by burning at the stake into the Inquisition.

    The retired seminary professor who serves as guru for torture advocates repeated this claim.

    And then along came Mr. Google. The obscure Papal Bulls were now available for anyone with a keyboard. (But apparently not for retired seminary professors.) Nowhere in any Papal Bull was there a morally binding teaching that torture via burning at the stake or any other means was morally acceptable. Nowhere.

    It is hard, very hard for the Catholic advocates of intrinsic evil to give up this myth invented long ago by some of our Protestant brothers and sisters. Perhaps it would be more honest if these Catholic advocates of vile evil simply described themselves as Protestants? (With apologies to Protestants who refuse to support intrinsic evil.)

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    “There’s a feeling among [some current agency staffers] that the Army Field Manual is useless against the really bad guys,” says a retired CIA staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity.”

    So we have an anonymous source quoting another anonymous source that the anonymous sources have a “feeling” that torture is really a good idea. Typical heroic advocacy for torture.

    Well, when the USA government puts torturers on the official payroll what does anyone expect these shadowy and anonymous figures to say? “Please cut my job because torture not only does not work but makes things worse and I have committed crimes against humanity”?

    The constant advocacy of intrinsic evil will over time corrupt the human heart.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    “There’s a feeling among [some current agency staffers] that the Army Field Manual is useless against the really bad guys,” says a retired CIA staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity.”

    So we have an anonymous source quoting another anonymous source that the anonymous sources have a “feeling” that torture is really a good idea. Typical heroic advocacy for torture.

    Well, when the USA government puts torturers on the official payroll what does anyone expect these shadowy and anonymous figures to say? “Please cut my job because torture not only does not work but makes things worse and I have committed crimes against humanity”?

    The constant advocacy of intrinsic evil will over time corrupt the human heart.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    “There’s a feeling among [some current agency staffers] that the Army Field Manual is useless against the really bad guys,” says a retired CIA staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity.”

    So we have an anonymous source quoting another anonymous source that the anonymous sources have a “feeling” that torture is really a good idea. Typical heroic advocacy for torture.

    Well, when the USA government puts torturers on the official payroll what does anyone expect these shadowy and anonymous figures to say? “Please cut my job because torture not only does not work but makes things worse and I have committed crimes against humanity”?

    The constant advocacy of intrinsic evil will over time corrupt the human heart.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • bill bannon

    of heretics….a view held that year by Luther….article 33. Serious readers….it is easily read online. Richard, you are using with a good intention various forms of lying. Goodbye to this thread. Exsurge Domini actually confirms the Catholic encyclopedia’s article on Ad Extirpanda’s introduction of burning at the stake in 1253. By the time 1520 arrives almost 300 years later, Pope Leo X sees Luther’s position against burning at the stake as preposterous and as “against the Catholic Faith.” Richard is like a holocaust denier but of the torture in the Church issue. He will simply post ad infinitum until the Almighty intervenes….one would hope mercifully.

  • Pat B

    Being burned alive is certainly a nasty way to die, but it is a form of execution not interrogative torture. So the Church used to approve burning at the stake. So what? That has nothing to do with the question of torture today.

  • bill bannon

    burning at the stake did that in advance: it warded some away from a direction of mind by changing their willingness to go there. Interrogative torture cannot be the only form that Mark is against. I don’t think he opposes simply interrogative torture but feels vinctive torture and warning to others torture is just fine.

  • Andy F.

    because you believe in the Kingdom of Christ and His Church. Fans of the Republic and Democracy are supporters of a philosophy that excluded the One, True, God and the One, True, Faith from everything it constructed, including our own government. Any system in which the people (think) they are given power alone to rule themselves has for its fate the Tower of Babel and is rooted in none other than heresy from Arianism to Protestantism to Modernism. These are constructs fashioned on sand. Granted, we should work for the good, however, we have to stop thinking like the Constitution is the Dogmatic Constitution on Freedom in America as promulgated by the Council of Philadelphia, under the Supreme Pontiff, George Washington. For those of you who are about to tell me to get out of our “best country in the world,”: If someone would like to send me to live in the Vatican and clear my citizenship there, I’d be glad to oblige them. Otherwise, I’m stuck here.

  • Jason Negri

    Mark Shea takes up his arguments against the morality of torture vis-

  • bill bannon

    by example wherever the Church gave papal approval to Inquisitions and She used light torture in her own ecclesiastical courts.
    All this redounds to whether the Church opposed torture for 2000 years which Richard claimed above several times. The catechism claim that clergy never shed blood is ludicrous in that clergy chose repeatedly to hand over people to the secular arm fully knowing what the secular arm was told to do by Ad Extirpanum…or be excommunicated themselves….unless you too think bad protestants wrote the Inquisition article at new advent. End. Bye.

  • Aaron

    Richard, you’re shooting off in two separate directions. First, you make the excellent distinction between universal teaching and limited disciplinary norms. That’s exactly the basis upon which Fr. Harrison excludes torture as a moral means of extracting confessions. The next step, though, is to apply the same distinctions concerning notes of authority to the papal and conciliar prohibitions of torture. What we find when we do that is that we likewise have no universal teaching that explicit condemns every possible use of torture as an intrinsic evil.

    While you’re off to a good start in the direction of distinction making, however, you’re miring yourself in a horrible self-dug hole with your attempts to deny the very existence of torture in Ad extirpandam and Exsurge Domine. Ad extirpandam orders:
    “The head of state or ruler must force all the heretics whom he has in custody, provided he does so without killing them or breaking their arms or legs, as actual robbers and murderers of souls and thieves of the sacraments of God and Christian faith, to confess their errors and accuse other heretics whom they know.” I happen to think “diminutio” of limbs is more simply translated as “loss,” but either way, you’re trying to avoid the duck argument. Coercing someone to confess by any means shy of breaking/losing limbs and death walks and quacks like torture. Since you’ve already noted the lesser note of authority attached to this document, why be so disingenuous in presenting its contents?

    The same applies to Exsurge Domine (which, unlike the above legal instrument, is meant to combat heretical doctrine). It condemns quite straightforwardly the proposition:
    “33. That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.” In other words, it affirms, “That heretics be burned is not always and in all cases against the will of the Spirit.” A pope sought to authoritatively teach the Church that it could sometimes be alright to burn people alive. And yet you claim the document has no relevance to torture. If Mark is true to his supposed impartiality here he will quickly swing by to rip into you. Pat B has tried to make the claim that it’s not torture if it occurs in the course of capital punishment, but this of course fails the same duck test. According to Pat’s logic, you can rip, mangle, strangle, flay, and torture all you like as long as at the end of it a guilty criminal is dead. Epic fail.

    Rather than ineffectually nitpick that the word “torture” does not appear in documents or that it is not in fact allowed in cases where your opposition already acknowledges the prohibition, why don’t you return to your initial practice of distinction to rationally contest the claims of Fr. Harrison concerning the notes of authority either present or lacking for prohibitions against torture as 1) punishment of the convicted and 2) a means of extracting further information from those already convicted on other grounds?

  • Richard W Comerford

    “The 1252 Papal Bull Ad Extirpanda not only approved the use of torture, it specifically ordered it and gave rather outrageous limits for how far the torture was to go (see law 25)

  • Mark

    “Being burned alive is certainly a nasty way to die, but it is a form of execution not interrogative torture. So the Church used to approve burning at the stake. So what? That has nothing to do with the question of torture today.”

    So drowning someone is just fine as long as it is an “execution” — however, to merely simulate the drowning is intrinsically evil?

    Cord, it’s not too late to come back!

  • Richard W Comerford

    Back in the day we (Army Special Forces) used to receive detailed personal accounts from torture victims. It was a shock for us (and we were a tough, a very tough crowd)to sit there and look into the faces of these victims as they spoke. The horror, the absolute horror, of torture was made very real to us. It also confirmed what our SF and CIA instructors had told us: as an interrogation tool torture was not only absolutely useless but counter productive. It corrupted the intelligence system with bad information and got good American soldiers killed.

    Now we see self identified Catholics absolutely frothing at the mouth in their eagerness to advocate for and justify the intrinsic evil that is torture. It is hard to believe but then again we have self identified Catholics from the other end of the political spectrum falling all over themselves in their eagerness to justify artificial contraception and abortion.

    Pope Leo XII was right in 1899. There is a heresy called Americanism. American Catholics do surrender points of faith and morals in order to better fit in with the larger society. And this heresy instead of receding with time appears to be gaining momentum.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    The torture fanatics from time to time will appear to claim that Cardinal Avery Dulles justified torture as moral. This is simply not true. It should also be pointed out that the good Cardinal is not the Vicar of Christ nor a one man Council.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Brian English

    “Being burned alive is certainly a nasty way to die, but it is a form of execution not interrogative torture. So the Church used to approve burning at the stake. So what? That has nothing to do with the question of torture today.”

    Are you claiming that the Church did not engage in, and/or approve of, torture at any point in its history? Seriously?

    The Church’s involvement in those activities has been greatly exaggerated, and the Inquisitions were normally more restrained than civil tribunals in the same time period, but denying it ever happened is just denying the truth.

  • Brian English

    “So drowning someone is just fine as long as it is an “execution” — however, to merely simulate the drowning is intrinsically evil?”

    This relates to a point about KSM that I always find astonishing. Apparently, it would have been fine if, instead having the ISI grab him, we had simply sent a Predator Missle through his front door and killed him. But taking him alive and waterboarding him to try to get information to save innocent lives is intrinsically evil.

  • Richard W Comerford

    The torture fanatics appear not only to justify torture but also slavery appealing to Cardinal Dulles. However the Cardinal actually wrote:

    “Radical forms of slavery that deprive human beings of all personal rights are never morally permissible, but more or less forms of subjegation and servitude will always accompany the human condition. The elimination of slavery, possible in our time, corresponds to a natural dynamism of the human spirit toward freedom and personal responsibility. The goal of full and uninhibited freedom, however, is an eschatological ideal never fully attainable within history.”

    The advocacy of intrinsic evils will over time corrupt the human heart.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Brian English

    “But for any faithful Catholic or any man of good will who has doubts about the morality this matter one only has to look at the last two Vicars of Christ and the last Council for a solemn, clear and defined condemnation of torture.”

    So when B16 had the New Hitler in front of him in 2008, where was the condemnation?

  • Brian English

    “The torture fanatics appear not only to justify torture but also slavery appealing to Cardinal Dulles. However the Cardinal actually wrote:”

    You really have to read the whole article to understand the point the Cardinal was making about slavery and to see how it applies to the torture issue as well.

  • More Invisible Ink

    The torture and slavery fanatics appear to argue that Cardinal Dulles really advocated for the morality of torture and slavery. Of course he did not. Nor did he write secret messages in invisible ink to the torture and slavery fanatics.

    As Mr. Shea likes to say:Sin makes you stupid”.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • John

    I have followed debates in the Catholic blogosphere, particularly in comboxes, for a while, and it seems to me that the debate about whether the Church teaches that torture is always wrong (that is, intrinsically evil), while important, is not necessarily relevant to contemporary public policy debates about how to treat terrorists and enemy combatants.

    I am willing to grant that, when Church teaching over the past 2,000 years is taken into account, we cannot say that torture is intrinsically evil. Certainly the statement on burning heretics in Exsurge Domini strongly suggests that the Church has authoritatively taught that torture/tortuous methods of execution are justified in some circumstances (although I will defer to those more theologically adept than I on this question).

    Even if this is the case, however, I do not think that past Church authorization of torture provides a standard for how we ought to behave in the present. The Church might not teach that torturing and executing heretics or otherwise using physical violence to enforce orthodoxy is always and everywhere wrong–it has, however, recently disavowed such methods in practice. This is apparent in the Conciliar document Dignitatis Humanae and the 2002 statement by the CDF on the role of Catholics in public life, in which coercion in religious matters is largely rejected. Therefore, while torture of heretics might not be wrong in principle, the Church does not give Catholics today license to do so in practice.

    This absence of a contemporary justification of torture becomes even stronger, in my judgment, when we consider that what is being debated today is not the enforcement of religious orthodoxy against heretics but the law enforcement activities of a purely secular state. Thus, past Church treatment of heretics, even if authoritative, does not seem to me to provide a norm for contemporary secular law enforcement.

    I suppose what I am getting at is that torture might not be intrinsically evil, but it might still be prohibited to Catholics today.

  • Brian English

    You formulated an excellent response to my little-old-lady scenario. However, your analysis of the morality of waterboarding based upon (1) the intent of the interrogator, and (2) the consent of the person being waterboarded, overlooks three areas where the Church excuses the intent to harm another and disregards the lack of consent of the target of the harm.

    (1) in war, I can kill an enemy soldier, despite his lack of consent;

    (2) in civil society, I can imprison a convicted criminal, despite his lack of consent;

    (3) once again in civil society, I can execute a criminal sentenced to death, despite his lack of consent.

    I think you would concede that if US Agents happened upon KSM as he was aiming a Stinger Missle at a passenger jet, the Agents could kill him on the spot.

    Let’s change the situation. Instead of aiming the Stinger himself (terrorist leaders tend to avoid situations where they could end up being the ones killed), KSM recruits another jihadist, supplies him with the Stinger, identifies the jet he is to shoot down, the flight path of the jet he is to shoot down, where the Stinger should be fired from, and supplies the jihadist with funds and papers needed to carry out his mission.

    The US Agents and ISI raid KSM’s house a few hours after KSM sends the jihadist on his way. Some argue that once we have KSM in custody, he is no longer a threat and should be treated like any other prisoner of war (and some even argue he should be treated like a defendant in our criminal justice system). But is KSM really no longer a threat? His underling is still out there, with the weapon and target information that KSM supplied him with, ready to carry-out mass murder on KSM’s behalf.

    Is it really your position that when we ask KSM if an attack operation is active, and he responds, “You will soon find out,” that all we have to respond with is the Army Field Manual? Shouldn’t KSM bear at least some of the risk related to the terrorist attacks he outsources?

  • Brian English

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/w…thday.jpg

    This will take you to a photo of B16 and the Ultimate War Criminal in 2008. The tension between the two is palpable.

  • Brian English

    “but the law enforcement activities of a purely secular state.”

    Treating terrorism like a law enforcement issue leads to horrors like the jury verdict in Manhattan yesterday in the Embassey Bombing case.

    “I suppose what I am getting at is that torture might not be intrinsically evil, but it might still be prohibited to Catholics today.”

    I agree. I think reasonable people could reach different conclusions on that.

  • Brian English

    I had forgotten that the New Hitler had visited B16 in June 2008. The link below will take you to an article describing that titanic cofrontation.

    http://www.vaticans.org/index.php?/archives/1175-Pope-Benedict-XVI-hosted-US-President-George-W.-Bush-at-the-Vatican.html

  • John

    Brian,

    Sorry, by using the term “law enforcement,” I was not trying to take a position on the question of whether terrorism ought to be dealt with as warfare or as a law enforcement matter. I was simply looking for a generic term to describe the activity of protecting citizens from terorrists/wrongdoers in a way that distinguished it from punishing heretics, which involved both spiritual and secular concerns. Perhaps “counterterrorism” would have been an appropriately neutral term.

  • Mark Shea

    The Ad Extirpanda fallacy has been dealt with long ago

    http://zippycatholic.blogspot….llacy.html

    For a full catalog of other fallacious arguments go here: http://zippycatholic.blogspot….ments.html and here: http://zippycatholic.blogspot….moire.html

  • Richard W Comerford

    “we cannot say that torture is intrinsically evil”

    Well, the Pope does.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Linda June

    When your teen-ager or young adult child gets caught drinking and driving, I think the cops should torture–oops! I mean waterboard and only waterboard–him/her to find out where the party is so lives will be saved by preventing the other partiers from driving drunk and maybe killing/maiming innocent people.

    And if you drink alcohol, you, too should be tortured–oops! I mean waterboarded and waterboarded only–in order to reveal the names of all the people you know who do or might drink alcohol, as well. Then those people should be rounded up and tortu–oops!–I mean, have their heads politely wrapped in plastic sheeting with slits made for the mouth and nose then be deluded with water (or scotch) until they reveal their individual network of drinking friends and family.

    Then, I think anyone who doesn’t like to hear the truth about tor–oops! I mean waterboarding, of course–should have the same done to him/her to reveal their networks. But only if my favorite political party is in power. Not if yours is.

  • Aaron

    1) Richard and Mark, Ad extirpandam is NOT part of Fr. Harrison’s case for the POSSIBLE moral liceity of torture for the extraction of information after proper conviction. So it’s hard to dismiss the argument on grounds of that fallacy when the arguer himself excludes the “fallacious” evidence.

    2) Why, Richard, oh why, are you playing this fairy-tale game of denying that the Church ever sanctioned the use of torture or employed it in ecclesiastical proceedings? That is simply ludicrous. Even without the loudly quacking duck of Ad extirpandam you have the ecumenical council of Vienne regulating under what conditions a prisoner may be subjected to torture. Please reenter the realm of history. One can simultaneously acknowledge that the Church tortured AND that this doesn’t constitute teaching in favor of torture. Your head won’t explode.

  • Richard W Comerford

    Ultimately the retired seminary professor bases his advocacy for the morality of torture, his attack on John Paul II and his assault on the Post Conciliar Papacy on Ad extirpandam.

    Sadly for the professor it appears that he did not bother to red the actual document, Ad extirpandam, first. He merely accepted the argument of long dead Protestant historians without reseaching the matter.

    Why are the torture and slavery advocates always so sloppy?

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Pammie.

    More GWB aka “The Dark Lord” wisdom: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Mz-BxneLOY
    No wonder it’s hardly possible for a satirist to make a decent wage these days.

    Thanks Mr. Shea for a timely topic and also Mr. Comerford for clarifications.

  • Richard W Comerford

    One of the strangest things about the pseudo conservatives advocating for the morality of torture and slavery is their disdain of authority.

    The Holy Spirit protects Popes and Councils (united with Popes) from error. But only under certain conditions. The Pope has to intend to teach the entire Church in a clear, authoritative and defined manner on a point of faith and morals in order to be preserved from error.

    No Pope or Council has ever taught in such an authoritative manner that torture and slavery are moral, right and good. However we have had very clear and authoritative teaching from Popes and Council that torture and slavery are evil.

    Satan and his Cohorts were disobedient to authority too.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerforxd

  • Carl

    I consider all of the following torture:
    Yelling, loud music, Environmental manipulation, Sleep deprivation/adjustment, Stress positions, 20-hr interrogations, controlled fear (dogs), attention grab, attention slap, long time standing, and cold cell. Not as harsh as waterboarding but torture none the same. And appearantly Obama is OK with these enhanced techniques.

    And I may add many of these same techniques were used upon the Waco Texas Religious group back in the nineties where women and children were exposed. This incident ended with eighty people being burned alive. I don’t remember Catholic writers getting their shorts in bunches back then! Was it because blogs didn’t exist?

    The Waco Religious raid was clearly a Pre-emptive attack by the U.S. Government upon one man, David Koresh, because had an illegal firearm and had threatened no one! And eighty people including women and children died by fire because of this non-threat.

    It’s perspectives like this one that really makes it hard for me to wrap my arms around indignant Bush/conservative-bashers, when I agree with them in a perfect world that torture is torture.

  • Erin Manning

    …let’s look at your “exceptions” to the rule of intent.

    In a just war a soldier may fire upon the enemy, who are presumably firing back upon him. A duly convicted criminal may be punished by the appropriate authorities; the Church is clear that this punishment may include the death penalty, but warns seriously (in the Catechism) against resorting to the death penalty indiscriminately. Both just war theory and just punishment are concepts with rich histories of debate and discussion by Church authorities, theologians, and others. The ultimate authority, the Church, is clear as to when these things may be done and when they may not be.

    But the Church can’t give permission, even in a just war or a just punishment scenario, for anyone to commit murder. No one could approach KSM, for instance, and simply shoot him. In the absence of the imminent threat (e.g., the missile he is about to fire) shooting him constitutes assassination, which is murder–and let me say for the record that all assassinations are murders and thus unjust and illicit.

    Just as no murder can ever be morally justified, so can no act of torture ever be morally justified. A terrorist may, indeed, have knowledge of other terror operations, and even be morally responsible for some. But it is still not moral to torture him to get information about those operations, whether that torture involves waterboarding or some other method. That innocents may die is not permission to suspend the moral law–otherwise, the erosion of the moral compass that begins with the permission to torture might easily escalate into the permission to mutilate or hurt innocent members of the terrorist’s family, or the terrorist himself, or otherwise commit acts of grave evil (sexual acts come to mind) in the increasingly immoral attempts to gain information by evil means. Once you have decided evil means are acceptable, the degree to which they are becomes a mere “haggling over the price” so to speak.

    I realize it may seem strange to say, “But we can shoot a terrorist in immediate self-defense, or even execute him! Why can’t we torture him with a little water and the sensation of drowning?” The answer is: we can morally defend ourselves, and we–that is, the State–can morally exact just punishment (though with great care if the punishment is to be execution). We cannot morally torture anyone, regardless of the situation.

  • Carl

    CCC2298 In times past, cruel practices were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order, often without protest from the Pastors of the Church, who themselves adopted in their own tribunals the prescriptions of Roman law concerning torture. Regrettable as these facts are, the Church always taught the duty of clemency and mercy. She forbade clerics to shed blood. In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.

  • Mark Shea

    When your teen-ager or young adult child gets caught drinking and driving, I think the cops should torture–oops! I mean waterboard and only waterboard–him/her to find out where the party is so lives will be saved by preventing the other partiers from driving drunk and maybe killing/maiming innocent people.

    Yes. It is funny how torture enthusiasts leap from shouting “If it saves *ONE* innocent life I will carry the water myself!” to speaking in hushed and reverent tones about the state’s “safe, legal, and rare” policy of only waterboarding the Three Sacred Victims. If it’s such a great tool for Stopping Evil and Saving Lives and it’s so safe, then why do these people not scream about the Bush Administration’s gross dereliction of duty in keeping this valuable tool out of the hands of our law enforcement officials? People are *dying* and pansies like Brian want to defend waterboarding *only* three people? Doesn’t he care about the thousands of innocent victims? And why just limit it to saving lives? What about The Children? Shouldn’t we be waterboarding high risk pedophile suspects to see what they and there sick buddies are up to? What about the Children? Doesn’t Brian care about The Children? *sob*

  • Carl

    just war theory and just punishment concepts
    Erin said “clear as to when these things may be done and when they may not be”

    There are no check lists, Church authorizations/licensing , or any consulting of any kind.

    CCC 2263-2267
    “Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense.”

    CCC 2307-2309
    “governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense”
    “legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment” of public authority

  • Barabbas

    One of the strangest things about the [true] conservatives advocating for [their position] is their [insistence that you slavishly obey] authority.

    The Holy Spirit protects Popes and Councils (united with Popes) from error. But only under certain conditions. The Pope has to intend to teach the entire Church in a clear, authoritative and defined manner on a point of faith and morals in order to be preserved from error. [and anyone who disputes either the formulation or the scope of this authority, OR points out an obvious inconsistency, MUST therefore be an authority-despising radical]

    No Pope or Council has ever taught in such an authoritative manner that torture and slavery are moral, right and good. However we have had very clear and authoritative teaching from Popes and Council that torture and slavery are evil [that contradict the practice, exhortation and explicit command of the Church as it was understood for centuries].

    [Nazis] and [their] Cohorts were [obedient] to authority too.

    God bless [even as I disdain everyone who disagrees with me as “torture and slavery fanatics”, “stupid”, and now “a cohort of Satan”)

  • Erin Manning

    …I was referring to the Church’s clear distinctions between acts of just punishment/just war and acts which cannot be condoned under either concept.

    Let’s go back to assassination for the moment. The Church says we can kill an enemy combatant in battle, right? So why can’t we wait until he has gone home on leave, send a force into his home, and kill everybody there?

    Leaving aside the almost sure and disproportionate deaths of civilians, there is a difference between assassination, which is murder, and killing in legitimate combat, which is not. The modern age tries to blur those distinctions, sure, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.

    Or, let’s take the incarceration of prisoners. It is legitimate for the State, in pursuit of just punishment, to put someone in jail for a specified time period on completion of a just trial in which he is found guilty of a crime. It is not legitimate for the State to incarcerate someone for an extended and unspecified period of time on the unproven suspicion that he may be involved in criminal activities, and to hold him in this way indefinitely with no intention of ever bringing him to trial. Again, the modern age has a difficult time with this concept, but the concept remains reasonable and clear.

    It would seem to be a fairly recent development, this idea that the very fact of conflict means that any sort of killing, torture, imprisonment, etc. are justified in the moral sense. They are not, and the difficulties inherent in wars against “-isms” does not absolve Christians from seriously considering and following the Church in prosecuting such wars–and even in deciding whether entry into these wars is justified in the first place, which would be the ideal place to begin these considerations.

  • Richard W Comerford

    “that contradict the practice, exhortation and explicit command of the Church as it was understood for centuries”

    The nub of the problem is again seen here. It is rebellion pure and simple. The torture and slavery fanatics reject Vatican II and the post Council Papacy. They interpret and fit Church teachings as they see fit. I believe such folks are properly called Protestants.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Mark

    “It is not legitimate for the State to incarcerate someone for an extended and unspecified period of time on the unproven suspicion that he may be involved in criminal activities, and to hold him in this way indefinitely with no intention of ever bringing him to trial.”

    Exactly, because reasonable people would agree that the indefinite imprisonment of the innocent would rise to the level of torture.

  • Jason Negri

    Mr. Comerford,

    You keep sounding the “obey” mantra, and continue to dodge the apparent inconsistency in Church teaching. Why is that?

    Forget it, I’ll just play along for a moment: What would you say about those in the late 13th century who had a problem complying with the very clear, authoritative directives in Ad Extirpandam?

  • Richard W Comerford

    Christ was obedient unto death on the Cross. The servant is not above the Master. Yet we balk when it comes to relatively little matters of obedience like not enslaving of torturing our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Look at these folks who lust for torture and slavery. Some of them have wasted years of their lives trying to justify these vile things. And did they even care about such things before they became a matter of partisan politics?

    Ultimately we must choose between obedience and disobedience; between the path of St. Michael or Lucifer.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • bill bannon

    per Zippy Catholic who did not address that #24 required adherence to the Roman burning at the stake and they envision it’s effect remaining in the three Italian regions it was addressed to even though shortly after, it had reached Troyes and the first Jew was burned in Iberia in 1288 precisely as the new advent article inferred. They by the logic of what they call obedience….would have been Portuguese slavers right after Romanus Pontifex; they would have been at the stake burners right after Exsurge Domine; and by this lemming definition of obedience, they would have been castrators of young boys per a bull of Sixtus V that brought the castrati into the papal choirs in the 1580’s….stopped by another bull in 1878 by Leo XIII….at which point, they would havebstopped castrating.
    Let’s see if Pope Benedict has a lemming approach to obedience. In May Italy deported two muslims who had been planning to kill Benedict and Benedict let Italy therefore protect his life with an intrinsically evil act…deportation….in the same list as torture as an intrinsically evil act. Benedict therefore disobeyed Splendor of the Truth’s section 80 which is the only document calling torture and deportation….intrinsically evil acts without qualifications whatsoever. Benedict then rejects in his own life and its safety the lemming approach to obedience codified regretably in Lumen Gentium 25…..which also is non infallible.
    So Benedict is Richard’s disobedient conservative…..without Richard noticing it.

  • Mark

    Mr Comerford, would you agree that imprisoning the innocent indefinitely, rises to the level of torture? (Think people in North Korea forced into Gulag like conditions because they were found to be in possession of a Bible)

    Thanks

  • Richard W Comerford

    The trouble with Ad Extirpandam for the torture and slavery advocates is that it is not a teaching document on faith and morals directed to the entire Church. Catholics are not bound in obedience to treat it as a teaching on faith and morals.

    It was a document directed to a small portion of Italy that had recently fallen under Papal control. Words like torture and inquisition cannot be found in it. Indeed the Spanish Inquisition had not started yet. No historian has ever been able to link a single case of torture to it.

    Yet over the centuries it has been embraced with a passion that should be reserved for the Cross. First Protestants, claiming that Rome was the whore of Babylon embraced it. Now pseudo Catholics claiming that Rome has no authority embrace it.

    It is all quite silly. Pride and disobedience. Mocking the teachings of the Vicar of Christ for the rantings of an obscure ex-seminary professor.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • bill bannon

    of John Paul II when he allowed Italy to protect his life with intrinsically evil deportation of two muslims back in May….check Mr. Google.

  • Richard W Comerford

    The Vicar of Christ wrote Section 80 protected from error by the Holy Spirit. And Section 80 said nothing about deportations.

    Why do not the slavery and torture fanatics actually read the documents they cite? Probably because their Guru does not.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Carl

    Except on Mr. Shea

  • bill bannon

    Here is the Vatican version of section 80:

    ” 80. Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature “incapable of being ordered” to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image. These are the acts which, in the Church’s moral tradition, have been termed “intrinsically evil” (intrinsece malum): they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances. Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that “there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object”.131 The Second Vatican Council itself, in discussing the respect due to the human person, gives a number of examples of such acts: “Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honour due to the Creator”.132

  • bill bannon

    check Mr. Google for May 2010 when Benedict let Italy protect his life with the intrinsically evil act of deportation….unless Benedict used his brain like Brian Harrison did and noted to himself that various elements on the list should have had qualifiers and did not.
    It would be real honest of the Church to admit that in public and correct section 80 rather than let it standbas it is untilbthe Second Coming.

  • Brian English

    “Both just war theory and just punishment are concepts with rich histories of debate and discussion by Church authorities, theologians, and others. The ultimate authority, the Church, is clear as to when these things may be done and when they may not be.”

    And you are claiming torture was not? Don’t go Comerford on us Erin.

    And the standards for just war and just punishment may be clear, but their application to specific situations certainly is not.

    “But the Church can’t give permission, even in a just war or a just punishment scenario, for anyone to commit murder. No one could approach KSM, for instance, and simply shoot him. In the absence of the imminent threat (e.g., the missile he is about to fire) shooting him constitutes assassination, which is murder–and let me say for the record that all assassinations are murders and thus unjust and illicit.”

    Of course they could. You actually believe that in a just war the only people you can kill are people who happen to be pointing a weapon at someone at that moment? Does that mean you cannot ambush enemy units? They are just marching along, not pointing weapons at anyone.

    What about shelling or bombing behind enemy lines to try to kill enemy leaders or to destroy reinforcements? No weapons being pointed there either.

    In April 1943, Admiral Yamamoto was on the island of Rabaul inspecting Japanese forces. US naval intlligence intercepted a radio transmission that disclosed when Yamamoto’s plane would be leaving. When Yamamoto’s plane took off, US fighter planes were waiting for him. Was that murder? Yamamoto was just sitting on a plane, probably reading a report.

    “Just as no murder can ever be morally justified, so can no act of torture ever be morally justified. A terrorist may, indeed, have knowledge of other terror operations, and even be morally responsible for some. But it is still not moral to torture him to get information about those operations, whether that torture involves waterboarding or some other method.”

    But this is just begging the question. Why is it immoral to waterboard a terrorist leader to foil a murderous plot he put in motion? He most certainly is morally responsible, so why is he entitled to withhold that information? What moral precept entitles him to sit there and smirk at interrogators while others carry out his wishes?

    “That innocents may die is not permission to suspend the moral law–otherwise, the erosion of the moral compass that begins with the permission to torture might easily escalate into the permission to mutilate or hurt innocent members of the terrorist’s family, or the terrorist himself, or otherwise commit acts of grave evil (sexual acts come to mind) in the increasingly immoral attempts to gain information by evil means. Once you have decided evil means are acceptable, the degree to which they are becomes a mere “haggling over the price” so to speak.”

    But once again, you assume waterboarding three terrorist leaders to try to prevent terrorist attacks is a suspension of the moral law. I think it is a suspension of the moral law to do nothing beyond name, rank and serial number when a murdering terrorist refuses to reveal where his underlings are heading. How do you think men like Augustine, Aquinas and More would have dealt with KSM?

    As for your slippery slope argument, that once we start waterboarding terrorist leaders we might start using it against their wives and kids, couldn’t that argument equally apply to the interrogation techniques you do approve of. Isn’t there a risk that once we use the Army Field Manual techniques against KSM, we might decide to use them against his wife and kids?

    And by the way, would it be immoral to use the Manual techniques on KSM’s wife and kids? If you think it would be, why do you think that?

  • Richard W Comerford

    Back in the Dark Ages when the brilliant Colonel Nick Rowe (RIP) was organizing his SERE School at Fort Bragg I got volunteered to be one of the “wind dummies”. What goes on in SERE training is not by a long shot the same thing as goes on in the real world.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    And how do you know? Did the official US Government torturers tell you? That is the problem when a government places torturers on its payroll. The citizens have to rely on the word of people who torturer other people for a living as to what they are up to.. Unless, of course, a citizen is being being interrogated under torture by the torturers then he knows exactly what is going on..

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    Sorry, it does not appear in Mr. Google’s version. And there is a difference between extradition and deportation.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    Sorry, it does not appear in Mr. Google’s version. And there is a difference between extradition and deportation.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Brian English

    “Yes. It is funny how torture enthusiasts leap from shouting “If it saves *ONE* innocent life I will carry the water myself!” to speaking in hushed and reverent tones about the state’s “safe, legal, and rare” policy of only waterboarding the Three Sacred Victims.”

    Are you and Linda really this dense, or is this just some very ill-conceived rhetorical tactic? And of course you have to return to the Shea classic — equating the decision to waterboard three terrorist leaders to try to save innocent lives with the mantra of those who support the murder of millions of unborn children.

    “If it’s such a great tool for Stopping Evil and Saving Lives and it’s so safe, then why do these people not scream about the Bush Administration’s gross dereliction of duty in keeping this valuable tool out of the hands of our law enforcement officials? People are *dying* and pansies like Brian want to defend waterboarding *only* three people? Doesn’t he care about the thousands of innocent victims? And why just limit it to saving lives? What about The Children? Shouldn’t we be waterboarding high risk pedophile suspects to see what they and there sick buddies are up to? What about the Children? Doesn’t Brian care about The Children? *sob*”

    What is this even supposed to mean? I realize you are trying to be funny, but what is your point? That me not supporting waterboarding for everyone is somehow hypocritical? How does that follow?

  • Richard W Comerford

    “But once again, you assume waterboarding three terrorist leaders to try to prevent terrorist attacks is a suspension of the moral law.”

    There are a lot of assumptions here.

    1. The victims were terrorists
    2. The victims were terrorist leaders
    3. The victims had concrete information that could be processed into actionable intelligence.
    4. Water boarding is an effective interrogation technique
    5. Terrorist acts were in fact actually prevented by said torture.

    President Bush and his political allies purport that water boarding is an effective interrogation tool. However the interrogation professionals, who have gone public and come forward under their own names, dispute this assertion. The Church ,eanwhile has taught Catholics to treat prisoners humanely.

    Of course some Protestants. like President Bush, may feel free to ignore the Catholic Church’s teachings on this matter. Catholcis are bound to it.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    It is interesting to note that the apparently Protestant critiques of the Catholic Church rely on the word of a Father Harrison for their moral beliefs. The apparent Protestant have provided a link to Father’s Harrison’s work on this matter. However Father Harrison’s work is nothing more than a rehash of old (several hundred years old) Protestant attacks on the Whore of Babylon which purportedly tortured Protestants as a matter of faith.

    It is interesting to note that every heresy, every Protestation Church can trace its roots back to a priest attacked the Pope’s teachings on faith and morals.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Brian English

    “Sorry, it does not appear in Mr. Google’s version. And there is a difference between extradition and deportation.”

    It does appear in Mr. Shea’s version. Go up and look in the article.

  • Brian English

    “President Bush and his political allies purport that water boarding is an effective interrogation tool. However the interrogation professionals, who have gone public and come forward under their own names, dispute this assertion. The Church ,eanwhile has taught Catholics to treat prisoners humanely.

    Have these interrogation professionals waterboarded anyone? If they haven’t, how do they know if it is effective?

    With regard to the treatment of prisoners, are you claiming that spies and saboteurs have not always been treated differently than soldiers captured on the battlefield?

    And I will ask you again, was the execution of the six Nazi Saboteurs during WW II a war crime?

  • bill bannon

    section 80 above pasted from the Vatican site proved that deportation is listed as intrinsically evil and any news media for May 2010 will show that Benedict let his life be saved by that alleged intrinsically evil act. Saying God Bless in each post doesn’t fit well with your not repenting of accusing your opposition of misrepresenting section 80 when it was you who misrepresented section 80.

  • Brian English

    “section 80 above pasted from the Vatican site proved that deportation is listed as intrinsically evil”

    As with the Catholic Encyclopedia at New Advent, the Vatican site is not reliable (probably infiltrated by Protestants).

  • Richard W Comerford

    The new FM 32-54 is based in large part on an intensive year long study conducted by DOD interrogation and intelligence professionals and historians. The study examined the history of interrogation from earliest recorded times and in every culture. It concluded what interrogations professionals had known all along. There is no evidence that inhumane treatment is an effective interrogation tool. However there is overwhelming evidence that inhumae techniques are counter productive.

    This is nothing new:

    Fray Nicholas Eymerich, a fourteenth century Dominican who composed the Directorium Inquisitorum, the first manual for interrogators, to help Inquisitors ferret out witches and heretics, noted that “torture is deceptive and ineffectual,” as a method of reaching the truth, since people were likely to say anything to stop the pain.

    The idea in the USA that inhumane interrogation techniques are (purportedly) moral and effective is a Protestant one. First seen during the Philippines Insurrection (1899 – 1902)where mainly Protestant US Troops tortured Catholic and Muslim Philippines for information. During the Philippines Insurrection out of a population of about 8-million about 1.4 million died.

    It was the new civilian and Protestant, American Governor of the Philippines, Howard Taft, who put an end to the genocide and torture. Governor Taft;s action broke the back of the insurrection.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    The proper way to exploit spies and saboteurs, who are often recruited by the other side because of their human vulnerabilities, is to identify those same human vulnerabilities and convert them to your own cause.

    Of course this will not appease the blood and iron keyboard commandos who scream for blood. But then the keyboard commandos are not interested in national security but in satisfying their blood lust.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    The Church teaches that the State under certain circumstances has the right of capital punishment. However captured saboteurs are an invaluable intelligence asset – if they are alive. Executing captured saboteurs is incredibly stupid. But it does make teh Jack Bauer types feel like they are real men.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Brian English

    “Executing captured saboteurs is incredibly stupid. But it does make teh Jack Bauer types feel like they are real men.”

    So FDR and the rest of the US leadership were also emulating Jack Bauer, just like those involved in Operation Teardrop a few years later? I had no idea “24” was so popular in the 1940s.

  • Richard W Comerford

    During WW II both the USA and the UK had a problem with potential Nazi saboteurs and spies. The USA (Much to the disgust of FBI Director Hoover) executed captured would be spies and saboteurs – much to the delight of the blood thirsty Jack Bauer types. However the UK had a much more effective XX or double cross system which “turned” captured Nazi agents.

    The UK system was infinitely superior for national security to the US Jack Bauer system. Sadly throughout history national security has been compromised by cowardly Jack Bauer types who from thesafety of their armchairs call for blood.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • bill bannon

    Fatal Attraction line….very good flick against infidelity for more mature adults…scenes too graphic for the young. But returning to our
    Pope Benedict…the Pope who recently was a sincere dissenter from Splendor of the Truth section 80 despite the draconian obedience favored by Lumen Gentium 25…”religious submission of mind and will”….. he allowed himself to be protected by what John Paul said was an intrinsically evil act….deportation….from a major but non infallible encyclical.
    But you Richard have been telling us of the disobedience of conservatives on torture from the same list od intrinsically evil acts(I’m a scriptural conservative not a tradition conservative…I don’t think we should bring back the strappado or another 300 years of castrati in the Sistine choir).

    God bless you in advance for your imminent retracting of your declaration that deportation is not listed in section 80 because the Holy Spirit was inerrantly guiding it… a non infallible encyclical….apparently He was working overtime or did not have your clarity about dogmatics.

  • Carl

    Richard W Comerford said “Of course this will not appease the blood and iron keyboard commandos who scream for blood.”

    Creative and funny at the same time.

    By the way, the waterboard torture technique uses no iron and creates no blood on the perpetrador. Just intel and saves lives.

    While the dilation and extraction enthusiasts do scream eugenics, blood letting, and the use iron (physician tools).

  • Erin Manning

    Brian, in which the Church’s blessing and permissions to use torture against our enemies enjoy the same prominence as those documents written over the years by saints, theologians and scholars hashing out the limits of Just War theory and the legitimate use of punishment by the state?

    Come on. If the Church had centuries of clearly sanctioning the use of torture during war, you’d be able to produce more than one vague limited Papal Bull discussing the matter.

    The Church *does* have lots of documents forbidding murder, but you seem to think that assassination is morally valid provided two parties are at war with each other. So, you either think that assassination isn’t murder, or that murder isn’t always wrong.

    I refer you to CCC 2312, though: “The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict. “The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties.””

    And we can look at Gaudium et Spes, number 79, the first two paragraphs of that number:

    “Even though recent wars have wrought physical and moral havoc on our world, the devastation of battle still goes on day by day in some part of the world. Indeed, now that every kind of weapon produced by modern science is used in war, the fierce character of warfare threatens to lead the combatants to a savagery far surpassing that of the past. Furthermore, the complexity of the modern world and the intricacy of international relations allow guerrilla warfare to be drawn out by new methods of deceit and subversion. In many causes the use of terrorism is regarded as a new way to wage war.

    “Contemplating this melancholy state of humanity, the council wishes, above all things else, to recall the permanent binding force of universal natural law and its all-embracing principles. Man’s conscience itself gives ever more emphatic voice to these principles. Therefore, actions which deliberately conflict with these same principles, as well as orders commanding such actions are criminal, and blind obedience cannot excuse those who yield to them. The most infamous among these are actions designed for the methodical extermination of an entire people, nation or ethnic minority. Such actions must be vehemently condemned as horrendous crimes. The courage of those who fearlessly and openly resist those who issue such commands merits supreme commendation.” GS 79

    I hold that torture is evil and that waterboarding is torture. I also hold that murder is evil and that assassination is murder. Apparently these extreme, wild, out-of-this-world views make me some sort of radical leftist instead of a faithful Catholic, but I take comfort in the realization that I’m in good company.

  • Mark

    “Mr Comerford, would you agree that imprisoning the innocent indefinitely, rises to the level of torture? (Think people in North Korea forced into Gulag like conditions because they were found to be in possession of a Bible)”

    I’m still waiting for your response.

    God bless

    Mark F O’Donnell

  • bill bannon

    Richard in line with his paratrooper training has perchance jumped out of the plane on your and mine observations. While we wait for him to land….hopefully feet first for a change….let us peruse Proverbs from the modern NAB translation since Vatican II had said of scripture: ” both testaments in all their parts have God as their Author” Dei Verbum….

    Evil is cleansed away by bloody lashes, and a scourging to the inmost being

  • Richard W Comerford

    “By the way, the waterboard torture technique uses no iron and creates no blood on the perpetrador. Just intel and saves lives.”

    The interrogation professionals disagree with this assessment. Whats’ more the professionals hold that water boarding is counter productive. It pollutes the intelligence system with corrupted intelligence. This get American soldiers killed. (See FM 34-52)

    However the heroic Jack Bauer grown, from the safety of their keyboards, do not appear to be bothered at the prospective of more American soldiers filling up the wards of Walter Reed. This all appears to be a matter of partisan politics.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Mark

    “There is to date no credible evidence from an independent third party that KSM was a terrorist mastermind or even a member of AL Qaeda.” Richard W Comerford

    “apparently no one has been waterboarded in seven years…
    And how do you know? Did the official US Government torturers tell you? That is the problem when a government places torturers on its payroll” – Richard W Comerford

    The picture is becoming more clear — a disdain for America and defense of terrorists. Do you also believe that 9-11 was an inside job? If not, on whose authority do you reject that theory?

    “However the heroic Jack Bauer grown, from the safety of their keyboards…”

    Ah! The Mark P. Shea/Wayne Gretzky perfected ‘the best defense is a good offense’ — when you can’t answer simple straightforward questions, choose rather to mock the people asking them.

    Brilliant! — and oh so charitable!

  • Richard W Comerford

    Mr. Shea reports he has received the following communication from the retired seminary professor who served as Guru to the torture advocates:

    “However, now that Pope Benedict himself has personally reiterated this particular statement of the Compendium, I wish to state that I accept the Holy Father’s judgement on this matter, and so no longer hold that Catholics can ever legitimately defend the use of torture – not even in extreme circumstances to gain potentially life-saving information from known terrorists. Accordingly, the last sentence of the above article, regarding “the present status quaestionis” on torture, should now be taken as withdrawn.”

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    Mr. Shea reports he has received the following communication from the retired seminary professor who served as Guru to the torture advocates:

    “However, now that Pope Benedict himself has personally reiterated this particular statement of the Compendium, I wish to state that I accept the Holy Father’s judgement on this matter, and so no longer hold that Catholics can ever legitimately defend the use of torture – not even in extreme circumstances to gain potentially life-saving information from known terrorists. Accordingly, the last sentence of the above article, regarding “the present status quaestionis” on torture, should now be taken as withdrawn.”

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    “Mr Comerford, would you agree that imprisoning the innocent indefinitely, rises to the level of torture? (Think people in North Korea forced into Gulag like conditions because they were found to be in possession of a Bible)”

    I’m still waiting for your response.”

    I reply: “Who cares what I think?”

    The Church on the other hand condemns any inhumane treatment of prisoners for any reason as does the 1949 Geneva regarding the treatment of prisoners of war, to which the USA and the Vatican both are signatories.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    Back in the Dark Ages we had a third country national enlist in the US Army. He went AWOL and returned home to his country of origin. The guy was a Muslim. He allegedly got mixed up with the Muslim Brother Hood (The grand daddy of AL Qaeda) Our unit was tasked to located him and be prepared on order to lift him.

    Locating him was easy. The locals were no slouches. They not only had located him but were holding a trigger on him. All I did was work on my tan (which came out quite nicely thank you.) However we did not get a go to lift him.

    Instead the USA, at tax paler expense, flew in a gaggle of lawyers to begin the extradition process. Only when the lawyers had completed their due diligence could we lift the guy and bring him back.

    (Along the way two of our guys were tasked with baby sitting him and chatting him up. They extracted an enormous amount of concrete information from the guy just just by quietly listening to him. No water boarding. No thumb nail extraction. Just good solid professionalism. But I digress.)

    Now the apparent protestant apologists for torture and slavery in their continued attack on the Papacy have their panties all tied up in a knot about two guys who allegedly got kicked out of Italy by the Italian government allegedly because they were planning to kill the Pope. For some reason this has become proof positive, at least with the torture fanatics, that the Papacy is the Antichrist.

    However if the Italian government acted in justice with all due process then they have observed the human dignity of all parties.

    BTW have I mentioned that the torture Guru has recanted?

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    “Do you also believe that 9-11 was an inside job?”

    Nope. I used to teach demolitions 101. I am no expert but I do not see how anyone could bring down the buildings like that with hidden, internally placed charges for attacking the structural integrity.

    Sorry to disappoint.

    God bless

    Richard w Comerford

  • bill bannon

    saying he was now against torture….but adding at the end that waterboarding may not be torture. Are you once again leaving anything out
    Richard? Is this the March 16 letter that Mark posted months ago or did Harrison still do another change and did another letter come since then? I don’t take Harrison’s position but some here might….he took or leaned toward a way minority position on seeing Humanae Vitae as infallible in itself along with Ermenigildo Lio despite the Vatican introducing it as non infallible att its press conference…Are you Richard referring to his March 16 letter while omitting his comments on waterboarding found here….

    markshea.blogspot.com/2010/03/clarification-fr-brian-harrison-os.html

  • bill bannon

    -by- prior to. -fr-

  • Tony Paz

    Are you Richard referring to his March 16 letter while omitting his comments on waterboarding found here…. Bill Bannon

    No, Richard is referring to the letter Fr. Harrison wrote yesterday It’s right on Mark Shea’s blog:

    After the above article was published, Pope Benedict XVI, in a speech of 6 September 2007 on Catholic prisons ministry, personally endorsed a statement against torture found in the 2005 Vatican Compendium of the Church’s Social Teaching. Citing article 404 of this document, the Holy Father said, “In this regard, I reiterate that the prohibition against torture ‘cannot be contravened under any circumstances'”.

    In the above article I have already cited and discussed, in my section A13 and endnote 27, this article 404 of the Compendium, which is a publication of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace. I have pointed out that this and other statements authored by the Commission itself – as distinct from the statements of Popes and Councils which it cites abundantly throughout the Compendium – does not possess magisterial authority; for the various Vatican commissions, unlike the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, are not in themselves arms of the Church’s magisterium (teaching authority). However, now that Pope Benedict himself has personally reiterated this particular statement of the Compendium, I wish to state that I accept the Holy Father’s judgement on this matter, and so no longer hold that Catholics can ever legitimately defend the use of torture – not even in extreme circumstances to gain potentially life-saving information from known terrorists. Accordingly, the last sentence of the above article, regarding “the present status quaestionis” on torture, should now be taken as withdrawn.

    http://markshea.blogspot.com/2…-news.html

    Let’s see what effect this has on the torture fans. I’m not expecting much.

  • bill bannon

    that you link to, waterboarding and whether it is torture is not mentioned today but was in March…here he is closing off all torture in March even to save lives but then adding waterboarding may not be torture:

    However, having now become aware that Pope Benedict himself has personally reiterated this particular statement of the Compendium, I wish to state that I accept the Holy Father’s judgement on this matter, and so would not defend any proposal, under any circumstances, to use torture for any purpose whatsoever – not even to gain potentially life-saving information from known terrorists.
    As a matter of fact, I never have expressed any positive personal approval of torture for that last-mentioned purpose (and much less for any other purpose). However, Mr. Shea has informed me that on this website many Catholics have attributed this to me in recent years, seeking to support their own willingness to justify the use of torture in the current war against terrorism. No, all I ever said is this: “My understanding would be that, given the present status quaestionis, the moral legitimacy of torture under the aforesaid desperate circumstances, while certainly not affirmed by the magisterium, remains open at present to legitimate discssusion by Catholic theologians.” (That’s the last sentence of the aforesaid Living Tradition essay). As readers can see, I thus abstained from saying which side, if any, I would myself take in any such “legitimate discussion”. (Frankly, I myself was uncertain about that.)

    Nobody disputes that the CIA-approved waterboarding was a thoroughly nasty and frightening experience. However, I submit that whether or not it reached the point of torture does remain a seriously disputed question among reasonable and well-informed people. I think anyone who carefully studies with an open mind the available documentation and arguments on both sides, in regard to both the CIA and Navy SERE versions of waterboarding, will admit that ths is true, regardless of which side they personally come down on. Thiessen is not out on a limb of his own here: he can point, for instance, to the carefully considered witness of expert and independent (non-partisan) Justice Department lawyers to back up his contention that the CIA interrogators were not torturers (cf. p. 352). I will add no further comments on the waterboarding question now, except that I certainly intend to devote more study to this and related issues. However this will be my only statement on the matter in this forum. Indeed, I do not normally read this (or any other) blog, mainly because I think disputes in the blogosphere tend to generate more heat than light – especially since they so often involve intemperate, unsubstantiated, anonymous – and therefore cowardly – attacks on persons and reputations. Also, heat is often accompanied by smoke; so I hope that this present clarification of my own position at least clears the air somewhat.

  • Richard W Comerford

    Well it appears that with his recantation, written the retired seminary professor is back in full communion with the Vicar of Christ. Which is a nice place to be.

    One of the problems is that some of his followers have spent years of their lives advocating a vile evil based on the professor’s bad theology. Will they join the professor in returning to full communion with the Vicar of Christ. Or, will they follow the path of some many others and become de facto Protestants?

    Let us pray for full communion. It is cold out there.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Brian English

    “Brian, in which the Church’s blessing and permissions to use torture against our enemies enjoy the same prominence as those documents written over the years by saints, theologians and scholars hashing out the limits of Just War theory and the legitimate use of punishment by the state?”

    What does prominence have to do with anything? You and your group claim that torture is intrinsically evil, always and everywhere, so prominence is irrlevant.

    “Come on. If the Church had centuries of clearly sanctioning the use of torture during war, you’d be able to produce more than one vague limited Papal Bull discussing the matter.”

    How about cracking open a history book? Even the Catechism admits the Church had used and approved of torture in the past.

    “The Church *does* have lots of documents forbidding murder, but you seem to think that assassination is morally valid provided two parties are at war with each other. So, you either think that assassination isn’t murder, or that murder isn’t always wrong.”

    So you do think we murdered Admiral Yamamoto. Well, I don’t think we did, and the Vatican certainly did not issue a condemnation. And if a Special Forces Sniper catches a glimpse of Osama bin Laden strolling through a meadow in Pakistan, it would not be murder for the sniper to put a bullet between bin Laden’s eyes.

    “I hold that torture is evil and that waterboarding is torture. I also hold that murder is evil and that assassination is murder. Apparently these extreme, wild, out-of-this-world views make me some sort of radical leftist instead of a faithful Catholic, but I take comfort in the realization that I’m in good company.”

    I never said you were not a faithful Catholic because of your views. Pacifism has a long history in the Church.

    On the other hand, you and your group insist that those who disagree with you are not faithful Catholics. In addition to Shea, have you read the garbage Shea’s chief expert witness on torture has been hurling at people on this board? I suggest you and the Coalition take a look at yourselves.

  • bill bannon

    version wherein he excluded all torture based on the Pope’s statement. All this involves non infallible sources from beginning to end….whether it is the Compendium or Splendor of the Truth which Benedict just ignored on deportation back in May in order to rightly save his life. The Church approved Spanish Inquisition deported Jews and Moslems….and it tortured….so let’s not dream universal ordinary too fast….universal has requirements.

  • Mark

    My question was specifically about the innocent being imprisoned in hard labor camps indefinitely for “committing the crime” of being Christian:

    “Mr Comerford, would you agree that imprisoning the innocent indefinitely, rises to the level of torture? (Think people in North Korea forced into Gulag like conditions because they were found to be in possession of a Bible)”

    And you choose rather to address some POW situation:

    “The Church on the other hand condemns any inhumane treatment of prisoners for any reason as does the 1949 Geneva regarding the treatment of prisoners of war, to which the USA and the Vatican both are signatories.”

    So, I’ll try this a different way. I am going to make a statement and unless you respond to it, I will infer that you are in agreement — I believe that the Church would consider the indefinite imprisonment of innocent people, for doing nothing more than being Christian and possessing a Holy Bible, a great injustice that would rise to the level of torture.

  • Richard W Comerford

    “I am going to make a statement and unless you respond to it, I will infer that you are in agreement”

    Sunshine; you can infer with whatever you want. I do not care. I do care, however, and I care very much what the Church teaches on this matter.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    Well the torture Guru has come in from the cold and recanted:

    “However, now that Pope Benedict himself has personally reiterated this particular statement of the Compendium, I wish to state that I accept the Holy Father’s judgement on this matter, and so no longer hold that Catholics can ever legitimately defend the use of torture – not even in extreme circumstances to gain potentially life-saving information from known terrorists. Accordingly, the last sentence of the above article, regarding “the present status quaestionis” on torture, should now be taken as withdrawn.”

    However it appears that at least some of his acolytes who have spent years of their lives attacking the Papacy while advocating a vile evil prefer to stay out in the cold. Pray for their conversion.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Admin

    Richard,

    Please see rule #1 — No namecalling. You may disagree with Fr. Harrison, but you can do so charitably.

    Thank you.

    The Management

  • bill bannon

    you can access the March 16 archive at Mark’s blog…. 8 months ago. The only new thing is that he is now silent on whether waterboarding is torture. Priests can be told by their superiors to shut up on topics they previously talked openly on. But you are filibustering anyway….aren’t you…..and you know this is not news.

  • Carl

    …can argue the merits of a moral issue based upon the clarity of information available or not available.

    The Church was established to teach Faith and Morals and reasonable people can question at least the appearance of a lack of moral clarity in these areas.

    The

  • Erin Manning

    You dismiss out of hand Pope Benedict XVI’s statement against torture. Do you also dismiss the Catechism, Veritatis Splendor, and the USCCB’s writings on the matter ( http://usccb.org/sdwp/stoptorture/ )?

    Do none of these authorities, in their prohibition of torture, make the matter at all clear?

    Or do you think that the TTB scenario makes torture into not-torture, the same way others think that the fact of war makes assassination not-murder?

    Or, as I suspect you may think, is torture only torture if an enemy does it to US soldiers? And is assassination only murder if a US person of importance is assassinated?

  • Richard W Comerford

    Dear Mr. or Ms. Management

    “Please see rule #1 — No namecalling. You may disagree with Fr. Harrison, but you can do so charitably.”

    Your rules reads:

    1. No name calling or personal attacks; stick to the argument, not the individual.

    I have not written the good Father’s name in a post. In fact I have addressed no one by name in a post. Nor have I identified any party by name. I have been most careful not to use real names, nicknames or handles. I have made no personal attacks.

    The reason for my care in this this is, in part, to comply with Management’s rule number 1; and, more importantly, to protect a person’s real world identity. Something in which you the management are now remiss in my case.

    On the other hand you, the management, have not only accused me by name of purportedly breaking Rule # 1; but you have allowed a flood of personal attacks and name calling to be made on and against me and others who have defended the Church’s position. I take no offense. I make no objection. It is good penance.

    But you the Management are maintaining a curious double standard. Is the Management taking the position that torture and slavery are not intrinsically evil? Am I being shut down because the Management disagrees with my defense of the Church’s teaching on this matter?

    Thank you.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Richard W Comerford

    Dear Mr. or Ms. Management

    “Please see rule #1 — No namecalling. You may disagree with Fr. Harrison, but you can do so charitably.”

    Your rules reads:

    1. No name calling or personal attacks; stick to the argument, not the individual.

    I have not written the good Father’s name in a post. In fact I have addressed no one by name in a post. Nor have I identified any party by name. I have been most careful not to use real names, nicknames or handles. I have made no personal attacks.

    The reason for my care in this this is, in part, to comply with Management’s rule number 1; and, more importantly, to protect a person’s real world identity. Something in which you the management are now remiss in my case.

    On the other hand you, the management, have not only accused me by name of purportedly breaking Rule # 1; but you have allowed a flood of personal attacks and name calling to be made on and against me and others who have defended the Church’s position. I take no offense. I make no objection. It is good penance.

    But you the Management are maintaining a curious double standard. Is the Management taking the position that torture and slavery are not intrinsically evil? Am I being shut down because the Management disagrees with my defense of the Church’s teaching on this matter?

    Thank you.

    God bless

    Richard W Comerford

  • Brian English

    “After the above article was published, Pope Benedict XVI, in a speech of 6 September 2007 on Catholic prisons ministry, personally endorsed a statement against torture found in the 2005 Vatican Compendium of the Church’s Social Teaching. Citing article 404 of this document, the Holy Father said, “In this regard, I reiterate that the prohibition against torture ‘cannot be contravened under any circumstances'”.

    This was in a speech to PRISON CHAPLAINS in the CIVIL criminal justice system. It might be hard for some people to believe, but in many areas of the world torture is, in fact, part of the CIVIL criminal justice system.

    In any event, how do you square your interpretation of the meaning of the prison chaplain address with the fact that a little over a year after that address, B16 had in front of him, on two separate occasions, the Man Who Started it All, the Torture Decider, the War Criminal-in-Chief, AND SAID NOTHING.

    Here is a quote from an article on the Centurion of Satan’s visit to B16 in June 2008:

    “Vatican City, Jun. 13, 2008 (vaticans.org) – Pope Benedict XVI hosted US President George W. Bush at the Vatican on June 13 for an extraordinarily cordial private talk.

    The warmth of the Holy Father’s reception for the American leader, and the enthusiasm that Bush showed during the meeting, prompted several Italian journalists to question whether the American president might be considering a personal commitment to the Catholic faith.

    Breaking with the usual Vatican protocol, the Pope met President Bush in the Tower of St. John, rather than in the apostolic palace. After their private conversation, the two men walked together through the Vatican gardens, visiting the Lourdes grotto there.

    The Vatican announced that the unusual reception was arranged “to respond to the cordiality of the welcome received by the Supreme Pontiff during his recent visit to the United States of America.” In April the Pope had been clearly surprised and delighted by the warmth of his reception at the White House.

    An official statement released by the Vatican after the Friday meeting indicated that the Pope’s conversation with President Bush touched upon their shared “commitment in defense of fundamental moral values.” They also spoke about international concerns including the tensions in the Middle East, the food crisis, and global poverty.”

    Let’s look at that one section again: “the Pope’s conversation with President Bush touched upon their shared “commitment in defense of fundamental moral values.'” I eagerly await the absurd explanations for this event. Maybe B16 is a secret Protestant?

  • Carl

    I have not dismissed anything.
    You can not read my mind.
    NO Church document differentiates were the torture line ends and were the abuse begins.

    Instead of being so quick to personally judge others maybe you should take the time and actually read what I typed. I agree waterboarding is torture, I stated it above. I also consider sleep depravaition torture.

  • Mark

    “Or, as I suspect you may think, is torture only torture if an enemy does it to US soldiers?” – Erin

    Again we have an example of the best defense being a good offense. When do you conservophobes EVER talk about the very real torture taking place in other countries around the world? Has Mark Shea ever written an article dedicated to the horrific torture practices that take place as a rule in other countries?

    Have you ever watched the Daniel Pearl beheading video?

    “Sunshine; you can infer with whatever you want. I do not care. I do care, however, and I care very much what the Church teaches on this matter.” – Richard W Comerford

    Rather than trying to flirt with me, why don’t you answer the question? — For the fourth time; What does the Church teach on the matter of indefinite imprisonment of innocent Christians? Does the Church teach, as reasonable people would believe, that it is a form of torture?

    “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.”

    “Maybe B16 is a secret Protestant?”

    And a neocon shill for the GOP.

  • Carl

    Erin said “Do none of these authorities, in their prohibition of torture, make the matter at all clear?”

    Has the church put an imprimatur on the left’s beloved Army Field Manual?

    I beleive the public authority has a right and a duty to act above “miranda rights” and allowing terrorists to “lawyer up” when they have a strong belief that a terrorist has information that can save lives. I do not claim authority on how this can be done and still be within Church teachings. As you appear to do but have yet to produce documents.

  • Carl

    “Alone in my prison cell, I continued to be TORMENTED by the fact that I was forty-eight years old, in the prime of my life, that I had worked for eight years as a bishop and gained so much pastoral experience and there I was isolated, inactive and far from my people.”

    Cardinal Van Thuan, born in 1928, was jailed by Vietnam’s communist regime in 1975 after becoming archbishop of Saigon, later renamed Ho Chi Minh City. He never was tried or sentenced; he spent thirteen years in solitary confinement. In 1988 he was released, but communist authorities would not allow him to function as archbishop. In 1991 he fled to Rome, after a Vietnamese government official

  • Carl

    If you want to search posted comments by someone or key words:
    * With feature article viewable on your web browser
    * Click on the Edit button
    * Then select Find On This Page
    * Enter Name or Key Word

    Note: All browsers have this feature, I described Windows Explorer

  • Brian English

    “But you the Management are maintaining a curious double standard. Is the Management taking the position that torture and slavery are not intrinsically evil? Am I being shut down because the Management disagrees with my defense of the Church’s teaching on this matter?”

    Inside Catholic has been infiltrated by Protestants!

  • Brian English

    In order to address some objections that I know are coming, by pointing out that B16 honored Bush by meeting him at the St. John’s Tower (an honor accorded to no other world leader) I am not implying that B16 agrees with Bush on every issue. They clearly disagree on the War in Iraq. On the other hand, B16 has never made an express statement regarding the waterboarding issue (which might tell you something).

    However, even if it is conceded that B16 thought the use of waterboarding was immoral, it is clear that B16 considers the Pro-Life issues he and Bush agree on to be FAR MORE IMPORTANT than the war and waterboarding. That should not be a surprise, because Benedict has said in the past that reasonable people could disagree about the war, and I am sure the use of waterboarding under the circumstances Bush was presented with falls into the same category.

    Despite their differences, it is indisputable that B16 considers Bush a friend and an ally on the most critical issues facing the world. His behavior towards Bush is an example the members and supporters of the Coalition for Clarity should follow.

  • Richard W Comerford

    Mr. Management:

    You have not deigned to reply to my above post regarding my claim that I am innocent of the charge of violating Management’s Rule 1. Nor have you deigned to respond to my counter claim that parties who post in defense of human dignity, in particular in defense of the Church’s teachings that torture and slavery are evil, indeed intrinsically evil, are routinely subjected to abuse, name calling and personal attacks and all without comment by Management.

    Now it has also been brought to my attention that in this instant thread alone there are several examples of name calling and personal attacks directed against our late Holy Father John Paul II and our present Holy Father Benedict XVI. And the only response by Management to these egregious personal attacks has been silence.

    My prior observation that these unbalanced and unjust actions (and inactions) by Management constituted a curious double standard is now an understatement.

    Evil triumphs becasue good men remain silent. The Catholic media in the United States for the past several generations has remained silent all too often when faced with the evils of, among others, artificial contraception, abortion, divorce, sodomy, unjust war, torture and now in this thread (unbelievably) slavery.

    Since you have not deigned to respond and continue to allow personal attacks and insults to be directed against, among others, Pope Benedict XVI, I will withdraw from your blog. Quite frankly, under the circumstances, I cannot but help feel that Inside Catholic is providing material cooperation to the hdvocates of vile evils.

    If you think I have been unfair you may contact me at the address below, and if in justice it is necessary, I will issue and post an apology.

    God bless

    RIchard W Comerford
    cincdeb@yahoo.com

  • Brian English

    “Since you have not deigned to respond and continue to allow personal attacks and insults to be directed against, among others, Pope Benedict XVI, I will withdraw from your blog. Quite frankly, under the circumstances, I cannot but help feel that Inside Catholic is providing material cooperation to the hdvocates of vile evils.”

    Keep in mind, this is Shea’s chief expert on the torture issue. The ex-military guy who is intended to put all of us “laptop bombadiers” in our place. The guy who has all the “facts and logic”, as Shea indicates in response to one of my posts above.

  • bill bannon

    I did not condone slavery in the modern world wherein capitalism has made it evil through non necessity. I showed that it could not possibly be an intrinsic evil if God gave it in Leviticus 25:44-47. It is evil by non necessity. The parallel in scripture is drunkeness which is repeatedly condemned in scripture but urged in the necessity of great sorrow. So drunkeness is most oftennevil by non necessity but actually urged in rare deep sorrow….Proverbs 31:6-7 “Give wine to him who is perishing, strong drink to him who is at the edge of the abyss…that he may forget his troubles”. Yet most often it is mortal sin: Isa 5:11″Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening till wine inflames them!”

    Hence some actions are evil by non necessity and slavery and inebriation are twobsuch actions.

  • Admin

    I have not written the good Father’s name in a post. In fact I have addressed no one by name in a post. Nor have I identified any party by name. I have been most careful not to use real names, nicknames or handles. I have made no personal attacks.

    The reason for my care in this this is, in part, to comply with Management’s rule number 1; and, more importantly, to protect a person’s real world identity. Something in which you the management are now remiss in my case.

    Richard,

    Everyone knows exactly who you’re talking about, so your attempts to play coy are disingenuous.

    But you the Management are maintaining a curious double standard. Is the Management taking the position that torture and slavery are not intrinsically evil? Am I being shut down because the Management disagrees with my defense of the Church’s teaching on this matter?

    There is no double standard, just our requirement that our commenters follow a few basic rules of civility — among them, you won’t repeatedly call names (particularly when your target isn’t here to defend himself). Strange that you think the management is “shutting you down” because of your position on torture when we’re the ones who have run a half dozen columns by Mark Shea on that very subject.

    Commenters don’t get “shut down” for their views; they get banned because they refuse to communicate like adults.

    The Management

  • David

    If you want to search posted comments by someone or key words:
    * With feature article viewable on your web browser
    * Click on the Edit button
    * Then select Find On This Page
    * Enter Name or Key Word

    Note: All browsers have this feature, I described Windows Explorer

    That’s a great tip, thanks! You can also use CTRL-F (PC) or CMD-F (Mac) to bring up the search window.

  • Erin Manning

    I don’t disagree with you on unjust imprisonment–except to say that whether it can be defined as torture or not, it is clearly wrong, in that it violates the rights of the person being unjustly imprisoned.

    However, the key word is “unjust.” Unlike torture, it is possible for imprisonment to be part of just punishment–if the State duly and justly charges and convicts a person of some crime.

    Some here seem to think there’s such a thing as “just torture” and “unjust torture.” “Just torture,” in their rationale, would be torture inflicted by American agents against suspected terrorists (suspected, only in the sense that no trial has proved their guilt, not in the sense that there’s not fairly good evidence of their involvement, by the way) for the purpose of obtaining information which the torturers hope might turn out to be a) accurate, b) useful, and c) life-saving. “Unjust torture” would be torture inflicted by anybody against American agents or troops at any time for any reason; even if the enemy has strong reasons to believe that the American soldier has details concerning a planned attack that will disproportionately kill the innocent (e.g. Hiroshima) it is obviously unjust and wrong for the enemy to waterboard, cold-cell, or otherwise torture the American.

    If torture defenders disagree, they are welcome to make the case that it is, of course, perfectly morally just for a terrorist cell to waterboard any Americans they capture if they suspect those Americans know whose house is going to be raided or blown up next. If “lifesaving information” is the criteria by which we decide if waterboarding is just or not, then torture defenders should have no problem making this argument.

    I do think there are just and unjust imprisonments; the Church seems to think so, too. I do not think there are just and unjust tortures, and again, I’d like to see the proof that the Church–that is, that the ordinary or extraordinary Magisterium teaching definitively on the subject–has ever framed the torture issue in that way.

    Nota bene: this is not the same as saying that agents of the Church never condoned or appeared to condone acts which constituted torture; the CCC says as much, while also saying that this was not good. We’re talking about what the Church *teaches* about torture.

  • Carl

    I think everyone can agree this whole discussion is pushing the envelope of our faith.
    Being the simpleton that I am, I see the two main points of contention are:

  • Mark Shea

    and everyone gets delusions of grandeur! – Han Solo

    Richard, please leave Fr. Harrison be. He’s done his due diligence and should be congratulated, not pilloried. And the Nice Admin People are right. They aren’t shutting down anything and have been very good to me in letting me air my views.

    I’m now going away again because I’m busy. Let’s everybody be nice. Don’t let Brian and Co, get you down, Richard. You have the angels on your side. They just have clever lawyers on theirs.

  • Mark Shea

    I think this thread long ago reached the point where the Brian English Monoblog reached broken record status and absolutely nobody (including me) has been reading it for several days except Brian and a few desperate clingers. You can probably just let it go, Richard.

  • Admin

    Thanks Mark.

    This thread seems to have run its course, so I’m going to close it.

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